Today, in the city of David, the Savior of the world is born for us: he is Christ the Lord. That city is Bethlehem. We must run there as the shepherds did when they heard these tidings, and so put into action the words we traditionally sing at this season: They sang of God’s glory, they hastened to Bethlehem.
And this shall be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger. Now this is what I say: you must love. You fear the Lord of angels, yes, but love the tiny babe; you fear the Lord of majesty, yes, but love the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes; you fear him who reigns in heaven, yes, but love him who lies in the manger.
What sort of sign were the shepherds given? You will find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It was by this that they were to recognize their Savior and Lord. But is there anything great about being wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a stable—are not other children also wrapped in swaddling clothes? What kind of sign, then, can this be?
Indeed it is a great one, if only we understand it rightly. Such understanding will be ours if this message of love is not restricted to our hearing, but if our hearts too are illuminated by the light which accompanied the appearance of the angels. The angel who first proclaimed the good tidings appeared surrounded by light to teach us that only those whose minds are spiritually enlightened can truly understand the message.
Much can be said of this sign; but as time is passing, I shall say little, and briefly.
Bethlehem, the house of bread, is holy Church, in which is distributed the body of Christ, the true bread.And so let us hasten to the manger of the Lord. But before drawing near we must prepare ourselves as well as we can with the help of his grace; and then, in company with the angels, with pure heart, good conscience, and unfeigned faith, we may sing to the Lord in all that we do throughout the whole of our life: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The manger at Bethlehem is the altar of the church; it is there that Christ’s creatures are fed. This is the table of which it is written, You have prepared a banquet for me.
In this manger is Jesus, wrapped in the swaddling clothes which are the outward form of the sacraments. Here in this manger, under the species of bread and wine, is the true body and blood of Christ.
We believe that Christ himself is here, but he is wrapped in swaddling clothes; in other words, he is invisibly contained in these sacraments.
We have no greater or clearer proof of Christ’s birth than our daily reception of his body and blood at the holy altar, and the sight of him who was once born for us of a virgin daily offered in sacrifice for us.
~Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-67), Sermon 2 on Christmas
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life --
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
what was with the Father and was made visible to us --
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.
O Adorable Jesus, Blessed and Holy Bread of Life, with all my heart I give You thanks for You alone are my life and my joy! Amen! Alleluia!