Several years ago, I was leading the Children’s Liturgy of the Word on this feast of Christmas. As we were reflecting on this feast, one of the children asked me, “Sister, were the shepherds any different after they visited Jesus?”
For years, that question has stayed with me. It didn’t take much for the shepherds to abandon their sheep and follow up on a strange message of angels! They saw the infant for themselves and then “they returned glorifying and praising God.” To whom or to what did they return? And were they changed because of their encounter with Christ? Did they return to their sheep? To their former way of a shepherding life? Maybe to some shepherds who didn’t go with them?
In trying to answer that child’s question, I said they returned with a difference. Their encounter with this infant stirred in their hearts and changed their lives forever.
We,too, are changed by our encounters with this Savior born to us. We are changed when we recognize and respond to this divine encounter. We encounter the Savior in the sick and suffering to whom we extend a healing hand, in the child who needs moral guidance, in a parent who needs an encouraging word, in a lonesome youth who needs a friend. And their presence changes our lives.
Emmanuel not only came at a specific moment in history; Emmanuel is among us at all time. Even more, we are to make Emmanuel present.