by Boudreaux, Florentin, 1821-1894
His first act, when He girt Himself to this task of loving condescension, is an act of supreme and unutterable humility. He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Phil ii. 7.) He humbled Himself; He annihilated Himself ; He reduced Himself to nothing; He concealed the majesty of His Divinity in the nothingness of our nature. He refused the splendors, which, of right, belonged to the humanity united to His divine Person. He became the Incarnate God, such as our faith reveals Him to us ; a fathomless abyss of humiliation ; an unspeakable wonder of abasement; a mystery of lowliness so deep, so unsearchable, that God alone can know it as it is. There, in the deep silence of the sacred abode which He has chosen, He is forming that wonderful Heart which is to love us so much. But could that Heart be more humble than He has made it ? Could He go down deeper in self-abasement to prove His love for us? And can we refuse to listen to this first lesson, when He enforces it by such an example ?
Nay, He has not yet spoken a single word; He has not yet opened His lips to teach us by precepts; He begins by example alone, and by an example which will forever remain one of unsurpassed and unapproachable humility. But this mystery is too deep for words. Our souls may sink into its depths, lose themselves in its boundless expanse ; they may feel the pressure of its ineffable power as it overwhelms them. We may not hope to reach its lowest hiding- places, or to land on its utmost shores. But we, who are nothing, can learn humility from the Heart of Jesus, annihilated for love of us in the mystery of the Incarnation. It may have been in the glorious days of David or of Solomon, when Judea was the garden of the world, and her people the happiest of nations, that some wealthy inhabitant of Bethlehem resolved to prepare a comfortable shelter for his increasing flocks and herds, and built a stable just outside the city gate. He little thought who would one day find an abode and a poor shelter under its roof.
But God looked down from heaven upon that home of dumb beasts, and He knew that His own and only-begotten Son would have it as the place of His birth. He, whose humble Heart was to love us so exceedingly, looked down upon His future home and smiled upon the crib on which His Heart would one day begin to throb for us. But that day was yet far away, and that home of beasts, though poor and cheerless enough, was as yet far too noble to be His birthplace, whose wise love for us told Him that His example alone could teach us to be humble. But time and decay begin to tell upon the stable of Bethlehem ; the storms of many winters have battered it; the neglect and rudeness of boorish shepherds have hastened the work of demolition. And ever and anon, He that had chosen it as His palace, looked down upon it, to see whether it was now ready for His coming. “Hot poor enough yet,” He said ; and other storms were bidden to make rents in its roof. “ Hot mean enough yet; ” and another stone would crumble from its ancient walls. “ Hot yet ruinous enough to he the abode of that ineffably humble Heart.”
And behold! at last, it is reduced to such a condition, that even the beasts of the field avoid it and prefer the shelter of the cold sky of winter. How it is ready for the Son of the Most High. How He looks down upon it with delight, and prepares to take possession of His abode. For Him and for His lowly parents, there is no room in the inns of Bethlehem. He is turned away from the in- hospitable doors of His own people. And all this is His own choice. He has fixed upon that unroofed and crumbling stable as His dwelling-place, and upon the manger and straw as His only couch at His birth. “ Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this Word which is made known to us.” There we shall find Him who has come to be a Saviour, because He will teach us to overcome the pride which caused all our woes. Many children may have been born, like Him, in utter destitution, in places not more comfortable nor better furnished than this. But in their case, we may say, it was the result of chance or accident ; they were unconscious of it ; they did not choose it for themselves. Jesus alone, the Son of God, the Saviour of man ; Jesus, the meek and humble of Heart, in the wise love with which He loved us, prepared for Himself such a nativity, chose for His birthplace this wretched hovel, with all its shame and all its humble poverty.