In a unique way, the Son of God was born not merely to live a human life, but to die a human death. The stable at Bethlehem foreshadows the cross of Calvary. And the cross in turn gave to us the food of eternal life, Jesus’ flesh sacramentally present under the appearance of bread. In this way Christmas points us toward the Eucharist. The Incarnation (God-made-flesh) gives to us the flesh that is our spiritual food. The biblical story of Christmas hints at this reality.
Jesus was born in a town called Bethlehem. The word Bethlehem comes from the Hebrew for house of bread. So the man who would one day call His own body “the bread of life” took his first breath in a town fittingly named for that purpose. Bethlehem certainly became “the house of bread” on that night.
Jesus was laid in a manger. The English word “manger” is derived from the French manger which means to eat, or possibly from the Latin manducare - to chew. A manger is where food for livestock is placed to be eaten. How interesting that this simple detail of Jesus’ infancy (where they placed the baby) is preserved for us in Scripture. Jesus was placed where food would normally be for sheep and cattle. The symbolism is obvious. His body would one day feed His flock.
The manger says still more… Jesus in His humanity is placed where lesser creatures receive their food. A higher being placed where lesser beings eat. To be humbled in this way was the purpose of His coming. As God’s Son, His divinity far surpasses our weak human nature, and yet our Mighty God offers His own body as food. This higher Being (God Himself) is placed before us to be eaten. So the baby Jesus placed in a manger as food for animals points us to the Eucharistic reality at every Mass. God feeds us with His own Body.
And finally, the star. It shone in the sky above Bethlehem as the first sanctuary lamp. In every Catholic Church there burns a single candle near the Tabernacle to remind us of Jesus’ Presence. We look to it and are assured that He resides there in our midst. So too the wise men gazed at the Christmas star and were led to that divine Presence on the night when Jesus first arrived in the House of Bread. We pray this Christmas that others are led to that reality and see in Christmas a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.
Prayer for the Feast of Christmas
Ant. A light shall shine upon us this day: for our Lord is born to us; and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of peace, the Father of the world to come, of Whose kingdom there shall be no end.
V. A child is born to us.
R. And to us a Son is given.
Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that we who rejoice in celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ may deserve by holiness of life to attain unto fellowship with Him. Who liveth and reigneth forever and ever. Amen.