"The Son of God was made the Son of man, that the sons of men might be made the sons of God."
-- Saint Augustine

The circumstances of our Divine Lord's birth are thus told in the Gospel:

And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David. To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of God shone round about them: and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people: For, this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will. And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

By this we see that our Lord teaches us from His very infancy to be humble and obedient, not to set our hearts on the perishable goods and pleasures of this world, and to bear trials and sufferings with submission to the holy will of God.

Three Masses -- one of which is at midnight -- may be said by every priest today to honor

  1. Christ's birth from all eternity as God;
  2. His birth as man in the stable;
  3. His birth by grace in the hearts of the faithful.

While assisting at Mass on this great feast, we ought to imagine the altar to be the manger, and in union with the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph adore the Word made flesh, come to enlighten and save the world. We may, too, at the Gloria in excelsis, join with the angels in their song of joy, and beg for that good-will to which peace was promised; and finally, like the shepherds, offer our hearts as a homage due to Him. These prayers may be repeated with great advantage when we visit the crib erected in the church.

Remembering that our Lord says that whatever we do to His least brethren we do to Himself, we ought at this trying season to cloth some poor persons in honor of the Divine Child's poverty in the stable. There are many cast-off garments, laid aside through want of thought, which would be a luxury to the needy, especially those ashamed to beg.

While enjoying the many good things usually provided in abundance on this feast, we must take care not to exceed the bounds of moderation, especially in drink.

Today that Child is born again.
The midnight Mass has sped,
And Jesus steals in meaner guise
Our souls more close to wed.

I scarce may envy her who clasped
The Infant to her breast,
Since He, the Babe of Christmas, comes
In this poor heart to rest.

Example -- Charles II in Disguise

The Son of God, during His mortal life, resembled a King dressed as a servant.

Charles II, King of England, after the Battle of Worcester, was forced to hide in forests to escape from his enemies who pursued him. His faithful followers disguised him by cutting his hair, staining his hands and face, and giving him the costume and implements of a woodman. Being frequently met, he was mistaken for an ordinary poor workman, but those who were in the secret respected him as their King. It is the same with those who have faith, recognizing in Jesus Christ the true Son of God, hidden under the guise of our humanity, even as a little helpless babe, or, greater disguise still, the Sacramental species of our altars.

Taken from Catholic Life (pages 11-14), available from The Neumann Press.