We are in Bethlehem at the Shepherds’ Field, the place where, during the night in which Jesus was born, the shepherds were keeping watch and guarding their flocks.
Luke the evangelist tells us that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, these shepherds were precisely the first persons who received the good news of His birth.
An angel appeared to them, a great light shone around them, and they were afraid. But the messenger of God reassured them: «Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger» (Lk 2,10-12).
On that night of the first Christmas, the darkness in which the shepherds and the inhabitants of Bethlehem lived was enlightened by the birth of the Child Jesus.
Even today we still need to let ourselves be enlightened by the birth of this Child, Who is the Son of God and our Saviour. How many people, even today, live surrounded by darkness like the shepherds who kept watch in this field two thousand years ago. Our brothers and sisters in Syria and in Yemen, as in many other Countries of the world, have been living for many years in the darkness of bloody conflicts, which transform millions of people into homeless people, into refugees who have been uprooted from their own family and from their own culture, who have been expelled from their own country and often find it impossible to be welcomed in a new land.
Many others of our brethren in humanity live in the darkness caused by economical and ecological crises, which force entire populations to their knees often obliging them to emigrate. For them too, the experience of Joseph, Mary and the Child repeats itself: there is no place for them anywhere. At the most, they can find shelter under a tent.
There are those who carry darkness within them, a darkness which is often the fruit of having suffered violence. At other times it is the fruit of having made the wrong choices. Still others are in darkness because they are incapable of accepting some painful experience in life.
Lastly there is the darkness of sin, of being far from God, of wanting to live without Him or to live as if He does not exist. This kind of darkness soon transforms itself into the refusal of brother or sister, of his or her right to exist, of the recognition of his or her dignity as a human person from the very first moment of conception to the last breath that the Creator Himself gives. This is the darkness that is common amongst people living in every corner of the world. This darkness, at least in part, is to be found within each and every one of us.
The Child Jesus has not come only to enlighten in a solemn way the night of those shepherds here in Bethlehem, a town which, two thousand years ago, was located in the periphery of all peripheries. The Child Jesus continues to enlighten the night of each and every one of us and indeed the entire human race.
May the light of the Child of Bethlehem enter into the conscience and existence of each and every one of us, in our families and in our communities; may His light shine upon all people and upon the faithful of every religion who, are desiring to know Him, and are searching for Him even perhaps grasping at such a wish.
May He enlighten the conscience of those who govern the nations and the economy, and may He help them to discover that to govern means to take care of the small, fragile, and those in need of guidance.
May the Child of Bethlehem enlighten the actions of those who work in the fields of culture and communication, so that they may spread the message of goodwill.
A Happy Christmas to all from the Shepherds Field situated here close to Bethlehem.
A Happy Christmas from the place of the first announcement of the Saviour’s birth.
A Happy Christmas from the place in which the angels have sung: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth for those He favours.”
A Happy Christmas to each and every one of you, to your families and to your communities.
Fr. Francesco Patton,ofm
Custos of the Holy Land