The night of Christmas
BY FR ELPIDIOS VAGIANAKIS
It was slowly getting dark and the sun was disappearing behind the mountains of Bethlehem. The cold and frost made the inhabitants of this small village, as well as all those who came from distant places to be registered at the place of their birth, go inside their homes early. Soon the streets were deserted and no one was walking about outside.
To tell the truth not everyone, because just outside the village a pious man, leading a donkey with a young girl on its back, who looked like she was pregnant, was anxious to arrive at a house in time before it got too late.
Every now and then, he was trying to give her courage, because he saw that the time to give birth had come and the young girl was extremely tired from the trip which had taken several days.
Some hours ago he had given her his cloak and everything else he had to cover her and keep her warm, while in the twilight he was looking for the path leading to the village.It was very dark and the only light they had was a big star, which like a compass illuminated and showed them the way.
-Yes, we have really arrived! Be brave a little longer my beloved Mary and soon you will be lying in a warm bed.
But the elder Joseph hadn't realized that all the accommodation in the village was full and there wouldn't even be one room anywhere to stay and rest!
In vain he sought for even temporary accommodation. He searched the whole village and begged everyone, someone to help and have compassion for the young girl who was about to give birth. But no one helped him. The cold from the lack of love had spread its roots deep into the hearts of mankind.
Soon, when his pain and sorrow became tears of agony which ran down his sunburned face, an old shepherdess showed them a cave just outside the village which was used as a stable. She suggested, if they wanted, to go there to spend the night. There was no other option, so the elder Joseph with the Virgin Mary started for the stable-cave, to spend the cold night there. There were already some animals inside, such as sheep and a cow, which would be added to by the little donkey carrying on his back the most blessed woman among all women on earth.
How could Joseph imagine that the place that God the Father wanted the Holy Infant to be born was in a manger! In a cave where shepherds stayed many times with their animals, to shelter from the cold and darkness!
Even the angels in heaven marveled at God's decision for His only-begotten Son.
-There, My God? In this manger? They asked Him.
-Yes, He answered. The King of heaven and earth will be born like a humble lamb in this manger, because He, as Μy own lamb, will be sacrificed for My offspring!
As soon as the blessed children of God arrived there, the elder Joseph and the young girl Mary, glorified God, that they had found even this place for their Infant to be born. It did not bother them, since they had always lived very simply. All they wanted was to find a warm place for the small angel they were waiting for.
The time had come when the work for mankind's salvation would begin. The Son of God and co-creator with His God the Father of all visible and invisible creation, would take human form and as an Infant will come into the world.
The angels saw the unique and supreme miracle and praised God for His great mercy. With awe they had seen for nine months the Son of God growing as a fetus in the womb of a sweet and humble young girl. And she was a young girl so beautiful, so angelic, so pure, so innocent! Her humility and devotion to God always made all the angels admire her. That's why they were able to understand why God had chosen this young girl to bring His only-begotten into this world.
Mary! Mary! Merely at the sound of her name, all the angels stand to attention and bow before her, since she is their queen.
Moreover, from the day of the immaculate conception of Jesus, according to God the Father's command, the angels always stood beside her to protect her, but also the fruit of her womb. And they stayed close to the Mother of God as vigilant guards until her Assumption.
As soon as Mary lay down on the simple bed that Joseph made from straw and covers they had with them, she felt that childbirth had already begun.
The Son of God Who would redeem all the people on earth from their sins, was born in a cave from a pure and humble virgin.
The humble elder Joseph wept with emotion at the sight of the angelic Infant and full of adoration and anticipation took Him into his arms. He kissed Him sweetly on the forehead and helped His holy Mother to swaddle Him with the simple clothes they had brought with them. Then, with much respect, she put Him on her motherly breasts to warm Him and to breastfeed Him. She took Him into her arms, wrapped Him as well as she could with her cloak and tried to warm Him with her breath. A breath full of motherly love and adoration for her only-begotten Son. Her soul sang hymns of praise to the God of her heart, Who helped in the most difficult time of her life, when a young girl became a mother, without having her own beloved mother Anna beside her, who with love and affection would have helped her during childbirth.
Words of infinite love and affection came from the depths of her heart, as the first motherly song, for her only-begotten Son: "From today onwards You will be me and I You, my sweet baby. You will be my only treasure and I would even give my life to make You happy. I want You to live with serenity in the heart of God our Father, together with me!"
At the same time, an angel sent by God, appeared to some shepherds who were awake guarding their sheep. The radiance of the angel illuminated them and the surrounding area, making them feel fear and awe at the same time. The angel, however, with his sweet and serene voice reassured them saying: "Do not be afraid, because I bring you the most joyful news for the whole world, as today was born in Bethlehem the city of David, the Saviour of the world, Christ, Who we were all waiting for. In order to find Him follow the sign which is the bright star that stands over the manger, where the swaddled Holy Infant can be found."
Then many more angels appeared praising God and saying: "Glory to God, Who is high in heaven. On earth let Peace now reign over all people, and love and salvation reign in their souls." Then the angels immediately disappeared and darkness spread everywhere again.
With great simplicity the shepherds said, "Let's go to Bethlehem to see if all this is true." Following the brightness of the star they arrived at the blessed refuge, in the cave where they had sometimes rested with their herds. There they saw a young angelic-looking girl holding in her arms a swaddled infant and an older man standing with much emotion at her side, doing everything he could to keep them both warm. A divine serenity and joy then flooded their hearts.
Everything that the angel had told them was true! The Saviour of Israel was born, the promised Messiah and they were the first to come to worship Him. Despite their unworthiness, they asked the mother if they could hold the little angelic Holy Infant for a little while and she did not deny anyone this joy.
They reverently knelt before the Holy Infant and worshipped Him. They looked at him sweetly and tenderly took Him in their arms. The Son of God in the arms of simple and humble shepherds! In their fond caresses and kisses, the divine Holy Infant wriggled with joy and His smile flooded their hearts with divine serenity.
The work of mankind's salvation had already begun.
Those people who would like to feel redemption in their sinful souls and live the greatness of divine mercy could now easily enjoy them. All they would have to do to accomplish this was to approach the Holy Infant with the simple faith of the humble shepherds.
Blessed are those people who this Christmas will decide to come to the humble cave of Bethlehem to see the Holy Infant smiling at them and asking them to hold Him in their fatherly and motherly embrace. Those who wish, like the shepherds, to take Him in their arms and to love Him as their own Infant, as their own beloved Son, like the Virgin Mary and the righteous Joseph, they will soon feel in their soul the serenity and peace that the Holy Infant gives to those who will love Him with all the power of their hearts.