The Christmas season affords us all an opportunity to meditate on the true meaning of this wondrous celebration. We would be greatly helped in this task by looking carefully at the large icon of the Nativity on the rear wall of our church. This icon depicts the events of the birth of Christ as they are recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke. As you gaze at the icon you see the shepherds in the field, you see the wisemen traveling on their way, you see the animals in the stable. And yet the iconographer sought to focus our attention on the Babe lying in the manger. He did this by painting the angels pointing exclusively at the Christ-child who, together with His Mother, are the largest figures by far in the entire composition.
St. Luke’s gospel gives us a similar picture of Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding it. It is the Savior who remains the focus of everyone’s attention. The shepherds, who first heard the joyful message, looked upon the new born Child and returned “glorifying and praising God” (2:20). The devout priest Simeon, taking the infant into his arms, proclaimed him to be a “light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (2:32). The prophetess Anna “spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (2:38). And the wisemen, who came later, said “we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matt. 2:2).
Notice, if you will, that this great process of spiritual discovery required two things of those who were a part of it. It required first, that they set aside, if only for a short time, the cares and the distractions of their daily lives. The shepherds left the fields and the sheep and came to the Holy One lying as a babe in a humble manger. St. Simeon and St. Anna withdrew from the routine of the day and finding themselves in the Temple, beheld Him as He was brought by His parents to be dedicated on the 40th day after His birth. The wisemen abandoned their kin and country and made the long and difficult journey to offer their gifts. And second, each of them, in accordance with their station and circumstance in life made Christ the focus of all their attention.
As we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, there is but one fitting response for us as well; to withdraw from the mindless distractions and the shameless, crass commercialism of the season and to focus on, to praise and to adore Him, who is Jesus Christ the Lord.