Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. —St. Andrew Christmas Novena
The feast of Emmanuel, God with us, has begun. When I look at the Nativity scene, I no longer see an empty manger; the baby Jesus is nestled there, fitting just so among the straw. It is a reminder that God became human, a little baby, and shares every facet of our human experience. He is with us in it all, sharing our burdens and our joys. He continues to come to us through the Eucharist; He enters into our hearts and makes a home there. We are never truly alone—He is always there to keep us company. In our sufferings, He does not abandon us; He suffers alongside us in solidarity. In our joys, He leaps within us, sharing in and multiplying our joy and gratitude. Our hearts are His humble manger—messy and unfit for the King, and yet He comes to rest there. With His presence everything seems aglow in heavenly light, even the heaps of straw around Him. Let us arrange the straw as best we can to welcome Emmanuel.
The Bread of Life is born in Bethlehem. He is laid in a feeding trough, offering his very body to nourish us. The word “manger” comes from the same root as the Italian “mangia”: eat. Mangia, mangia; take and eat, this is my Body, given up for you. Let us kneel before a King who chose a manger for His cradle and a Cross for His throne, let us receive Him as the Bread that will sustain us.