In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin’ius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
Born among the shepherds is our Savior, who came to Earth to find His lost sheep. Jesus, son of God, lived, died, and rose again to lead his wayward flock home. Happy are those who have been found by the Shepherd who loves them!
For the first time in years, we will not go to the Midnight Mass for Christmas, as we celebrated our family holiday last night. Instead, I have the privilege of doing a reading today at noon Mass, and having an otherwise quiet Christmas for reflection. As I’ve noted in other years, one of the best films for that purpose is The Nativity Story, with this scene being among the most powerful in it:
Note: The front-page Nativity image for this post comes from a fresco in the church at Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem. I took the picture myself during our pilgrimage last month.