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Are You Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution?
The angel tells the shepherds that the sign of salvation will be an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Why swaddling clothes? The baby has been in the fetal position for nine months, and the mother wants to ensure that the baby’s bones will grow straight to ensure proper growth. Long strips of cloth wrapped around the baby in a mummy-like fashion will achieve this goal. Why a manger? You can’t hold the baby, or he will return to the fetal position. The cow dish is secure, and the baby will not roll around.
Here is the question. What is so special about this sign? Nothing. The sign does give us one piece of information–the baby is just born. The baby is not a day old or even several hours when the shepherds arrive. The baby was just born.
Could you picture the scene? Just as Mary lays the baby down in the manger, shepherds arrive at the door seeking to see the infant. This is a surprise. How did they know a baby was just born? So the shepherds have some explaining to do. One can guess what was said, “We were under the stars minding our own business watching the flock, and an angel appeared to us telling us to go to Bethlehem to see the world’s savior. Then a myriad of angels filled the sky, singing the most beautiful song of praise to God. I know all this sounds a bit far-fetched, and we understand if you do not believe a bunch of kids with a really bad nighttime job.” Mary must have reassured them, saying, “I believe you because an angel told me the same thing.”
What is so wonderful about the whole scene is that God takes ordinary things and makes them extraordinary. Things like mangers and swaddling clothes turn them into a surprise and the occasion of great moments. He can take the end of the day when the sun disappears from the horizon and turn it into a spectacular explosion of colors in the sky. He can take the ugliest bug, a harry caterpillar and turn it into the most beautiful butterfly with spectacular matching wings.
I always pay attention to what God does in the Bible for this reason: I was made in the image of God. That is what I can do. I can also take ordinary things and make them special. I can take a humdrum day and turn it into something extraordinary. I like that, so I will make this my New Year’s resolution.Back to All Homilies