(Adults, you could begin by lighting a candle before reading the reflection to your child. The quotations you could read directly from the Holy Bible so that your child sees that this is the Word of God.)
Most people in our world think that Christmas is over. Oh dear, they are so wrong! We spent four weeks preparing for the feast, so we do not simply stop—still, we celebrate our joy! This year, the second Sunday of the Christmas season lands on the first day of January—the day we celebrate in a particular way Mary, Mother of God. The Gospel reading for this Sunday begins on the night that Jesus is born, just after the angels announce the news to the shepherds who live in the fields.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
The shepherds have had quite the night. There they are, minding their own business, keeping watch over the sheep, taking turns sleeping, trying to stay warm. Then, suddenly an angel of the Lord comes, shining with the glory of God, terrifying them. But the message the angel brings is of great joy—the time of waiting is over. The One whom God has always promised is born. And this news—can you believe it, they ask one another—God just has to share with them. A whole host of heavenly beings fill the space around them, singing praise to God. It is marvellous—beyond anything they could ever imagine.
Now, in the darkness once again, with the angel of the Lord and the heavenly host returned into heaven, what will they do? Go back to their ordinary lives? Go back to sleep among the sheep? Heavens, no! They cannot sit still. They must go find this thing that has taken place.
So they went with haste—
Do they amble along, taking their time? Do they stop for food or to drop the sheep off with a friend? No, no, no! They go with haste, as fast as they can. They chivvy those sheep along—come on, let's get moving!—as fast as the feet of those woolly creatures will go.
and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
Just as they have been told, there he is. A baby like any other, but—for some strange reason—lying in a food box for animals. They keep the sheep back. This manger is not for you guys.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
Barging in on the holy family, they have to explain themselves. In fact, they cannot help but share what they know. They have had an experience of God. They have seen and they have heard, and now they tell all. Now they are prophets. And their words amaze all.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Here we see two different responses to an encounter with God. One quiet, one loud. One with no words, one with words giving glory and praise to God. Which one is better?
Is one better?
Sometimes, when we listen to the Word of God proclaimed or receive God into ourselves, we respond aloud with prayer and song. In a group of people praying, we might speak our praise and thanksgiving out loud, allowing the others to hear our prayer, joining us together. Like the shepherds, we glorify and praise God.
Sometimes, when we read the Word of God or receive God into ourselves, we respond in silence. We think deeply about what we have heard and seen; we savour the taste upon our tongues. In a group of people praying, we say nothing, but hold in our hearts all that we have for God. Like Mary, we treasure these words and ponder them in our hearts.
Two ways of responding.
We encounter God in the Word, at Mass, in others. We respond. In fact, we cannot help but respond. Sometimes we are like the shepherds; sometimes we are like Mary. How shall we respond today?