Bowing to the Child


When I was in seminary studying to become a priest, there was an older seminarian named Phil who years before had worked as a hospital orderly. An orderly does jobs around the hospital that the nurses and doctors don’t do, such as bringing people trays of food, tidying up rooms, or moving patients around the building. If you’re ever a patient in a hospital, when you’re discharged and it’s time to go home, they’ll put you into a wheelchair to roll you to the exit, even if you can walk just fine. (Maybe they don’t want anybody to fall and sue the hospital for lots of money.) In any case, one of my friend Phil’s jobs was to push peoples’ wheelchairs on their way out of the hospital. It was in doing this task that Phil noticed something interesting.

Sometimes the patient would be a mom who had recently given birth to a new baby. These women would hold their tiny children in their arms as Phil pushed them down hallways, in and out of elevators, and through the lobbies. What Phil noticed is that the other people in the hallways, elevators, and lobbies would stop, turn, and lean over for a closer look at the baby. Everyone was bowing down, showing love and honor, towards the child and its mother, with the father proudly looking on.

Notice in our gospel today how many people gathered around Elizabeth, Zechariah, and baby John the Baptist to celebrate his birth? God knows how much we love and flock to babies. So, in order that we might adore him more, for his glory and our good, the Son of God became a baby. Jesus became a baby to be even more adorable.

There are many wonderful Christmas customs and traditions, like trees and stockings and wrapped presents, but these are not the reason for the season. Whatever this coming Christmastime holds for you, whatever you are doing, be sure to stop, turn, and see the baby Jesus. Bow down with your heart with love and honor toward the holy Child and his loving mother, with God the Father proudly looking on.

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