Wonder and awe in Bethlehem
By Katie Bogner
“Only two classes of people found the Babe: the shepherds and the Wise Men; the simple and the learned; those who knew that they knew nothing, and those who knew that they did not know everything.” — From “Life of Christ” by Fulton J. Sheen
In all of Fulton Sheen’s writings on the Incarnation, he often uses two sets of characters to draw us into the stable — the Shepherds and the Wise Men. The Shepherds symbolize the humility of knowing that compared to God, we really know nothing. The Wise Men represent the wisdom that no matter how much is learned, we can’t know everything. Humble and wise, they gather to worship the Newborn Christ Child and invite us to do the same.
What wonder and awe the Shepherds and Wise Men must have felt as they encountered the Holy Family. Wonder at what they might have missed if they had disbelieved the angels or ignored the star. Awe that lying in the humble manger was the Savior of the world, the Word made Flesh. Jesus certainly isn’t who the world imagined He might be.
When writing about the visit of the Shepherds and Wise Men in “Life of Christ,” Fulton Sheen said, “Men shall have no greater sign of Divinity than the absence of power as they expect it — the spectacle of a Babe Who said He would come in the clouds of heaven, now being wrapped in the cloths of earth.”
As Advent draws to a close and the dawn of Christmas breaks into our hearts, we all look to Bethlehem. We come to seek the Baby alongside the Shepherds and the Wise Men. They found Him waiting in seemingly humble circumstances, and we can do the same. Instead of a stable, He desires a home in our hearts and a recognition in each person we meet. We await His coming at every Mass, in every Tabernacle, in every Monstrance. As Sheen wrote, “He Who had His birth in Bethlehem came to be born in the hearts of men. For, what would it profit if he was born a thousand times in Bethlehem unless He was born again in man?”
LEARNING FROM SHEEN
Gather more wisdom from Fulton Sheen in his writings on Christmas found in the book “The True Meaning of Christmas,” or in Chapter Two of “Life of Christ.” You can also listen to his talk — also called the “True Meaning of Christmas” — from an episode of “Life is Worth Living” on YouTube. Take time this Christmas Season to read the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, focusing specifically on the role of the Shepherds and Wise Men.
SHARING SHEEN WITH YOUR FAMILY
Watch together with your children the YouTube video “The Nativity — Fulton Sheen Timeless Wisdom.” Pairing Fulton Sheen’s powerful words with simple animation of the First Christmas, this video offers something for the whole family. The next time you are at your church, make it a point to bring your children up close to the parish Nativity Set, asking them to observe the figures and think about how each of them felt the wonder and awe of Christ’s Birth.
KATIE BOGNER is the junior high faith formation teacher at St. Philomena School in Peoria. She blogs at looktohimandberadiant.com.