Christmas today has something in common with the very first one: the baby Jesus is still hidden.
We all know why the “reason for the season” gets forgotten in our day and age: the birth of Christ has become, if you’ll excuse us, a God-send for fourth quarter profits. The modern situation is so odd; we celebrate a birthday where the guest of honor is kept out of sight and we drive ourselves silly with the preparation. Yet underneath the hustle and bustle, the stress and fatigue, the crowded stores, gift wrap, and credit card bills, Jesus is there, waiting.
If Jesus is hidden today because of our blindness, two thousand years ago it was by God’s design. In the dead of night when Christ was born, no one in Bethlehem knew that the most important event in human history was occurring, except for Mary and Joseph. After the angels broke the silence, the shepherds found the Infant in a stable, but Jesus remained hidden — hidden in the ordinary — for the next thirty years of His life.
How many people in Nazareth saw Jesus, spoke with Him, heard His voice, ate with Him, laughed with Him, and never knew they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Son of God?
The mystery of His hiddenness continues to the present day. Our Lord gives us His assurance in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew:
I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me. . . . Whatever you did for those who count for little, you did for Me.
This is truly a mystery and cannot be explained fully, but in the hiddenness of Jesus we see the intimate love He has for the human family. We also learn about humility and trust, how to be generous in living for others, and the inherent dignity of every human being. Not least of all, we learn how to love God. It isn’t something we do from afar.
Bethlehem reveals the special love Jesus has for the poor. The abode of the King of Kings was a stable, His bed was a manger filled with straw. The hardships of poverty were not foreign to Him.
Is there a better way to honor the importance of Christmas than to reach out to those in need?