In the Stillness of Bethlehem


On this feast of the Holy Family, the sixth day of Christmas, as we enter deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation, the Church invites us to ponder the home of Nazareth, where God Himself grew in wisdom and stature and learned perfect obedience from his holy parents. In considering the sacred image of family life, I am struck anew by St. Joseph’s prompt response to the angels’ message to flee with the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child into Egypt safe from Herod’s bloodthirsty rage.  No mention is given of any apprehension, question or deliberation on the part of St. Joseph. Rather he gives an unhesitating and immediate response to take his family on this unexpected arduous journey to Egypt and then again another arduous trek to Nazareth.  

Joseph was an honorable and virtuous man, but I like to believe that he was strengthened in this disposition of obedience and promptness as he contemplated the Face of God in that cold cave in Bethlehem (and every day since Jesus’ birth). In the stillness and silence before the blessed manger, he stood in awe and wonder and received the graces God desired to pour into His soul. There in the dark musty stable, St. Joseph with the Blessed Mother quietly observed and pondered all that took place – the Son of God wrapped in swaddling cloths resting in a feeding trough, the perplexing words of the shepherds, the Magi from the East following a star and laying their treasures at His feet, and then the mysterious dream and warning from the angels. It is in this place of contemplation that St. Joseph is given the eyes to recognize and believe the mystery of the Word made Flesh. There in Bethlehem, his silent contemplative heart is nurtured and he is strengthened in his trust of God’s providence and love.  

As the Christmas Octave and season continues, let us ponder in awe and wonder the truth of our salvation – God draws near to us and becomes one of us. Let us, like St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother be strengthened and nurtured by His Love made Incarnate. May the stillness of Bethlehem enter into our hearts and be a place that prepares us to hear and obey God’s invitation to us at each moment of our lives – even when he asks us to make arduous journeys.