Imagine being born in a stable.
The conditions would be cramped, dark and dirty. And you’d have the unpleasant odour of farm animals to contend with!
Christmas card images of the nativity, while often beautiful, airbrush what it was like.
The reality is that our Lord was born in rather abysmal conditions by today’s standards.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me marvel.
The lesson here is that we’d all do well to imitate such profound humility. The suggestion here is, be humble.
Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel was in obedience to the Lord: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Christmas is a special time for that, because it brings out the best in people.
When we’re humble enough to put others’ needs ahead of our own, everyone benefits.
There’s an annual rise in the number charitable donations each December. Churches and charities across Scotland and beyond hold toy schemes so children can wake up to a present on Christmas morning.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul, which has conferences in many parishes across our Archdiocese, has been busy with Christmas hamper and toy appeals as well as hosting Christmas lunches for the elderly. They couldn’t do it without your generous contributions to the SSVP box after Mass!
We all know that many people struggle at this time of year. While that’s easy to acknowledge, the challenge is to act. No matter how small the sacrifice – a charity tin donation, a coffee with someone who is lonely, a volunteering opportunity – we can all lend a hand. And if you already do this, please continue your good work.
Humility is the basis for opening our hearts and the inspiration to serve others.
It leads us to focus a bit less on ourselves (good) and a bit more on others (better).
St Bernard says: “Humility is the foundation and guardian of virtues.”
When we begin to be more humble we better develop other attributes.
How awful to be described as someone who only cares for themselves!
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is a model of humility. Her example of obedience to the will of God stands starkly in contrast with today’s ‘me first’ culture.
Her consent to become the Mother of God changed the course of history. Over 2,000 years later, Christians across the world continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, in a stable in Bethlehem, in such humble conditions.
May your Christmas be filled with peace and joy. God bless you all.
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh