God’s Sign

“Adoration of the Shepherds” (detail) by Balestra

As we continue to celebrate Christmas, spend time with the baby born that night. A baby who came into this world because He loves you, personally, individually. A baby born that night in order to reconcile you with Himself.

Looking at that baby in the manger, I think we have to ask ourselves: would I recognize him? Would I have had the faith of the shepherds who sought him out? It seems that the vision of angels was more glorious than the sign they were told to seek. After glimpsing the splendor of a heavenly host, they were sent to find a baby in a manger.

Would we have had the faith to receive that lowly sign? To pay homage to a baby? When the magi from the east find the child and his mother, they worshiped him. Would we have the trust to make that act of worship to a baby?

So often we look for signs. We want miracles to point us in the right direction. Yet that isn’t often the way God works. His sign is in the quiet simplicity of Bethlehem. It is in humble obedience and recognized only in the stillness.

In one of my favorite homilies, Pope Benedict reminds us, “God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfills the promise of the prophet Isaiah.” He continues, “God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby—defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love…God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him” (Homily at Midnight Mass, December 24, 2006).

He didn’t just come that night in Bethlehem. God comes every day on our altars, humbly coming to us at the command of priests. He continues to come in simplicity, as a defenseless host. Do I recognize Him? Do I have the faith to bow before the mystery? Do I have the humility and love to prepare my soul to receive Him?

He comes to us in love, asking only for our love in return.

Spend some time with the baby in Bethlehem. In the quiet stillness, close your eyes and make yourself present that night with Mary and Joseph. Kneel before the Christ child. Take him into your arms. Speak to His mother and his father. Be with them. Ask that child what He wants from you.

Give Him your heart.

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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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