A Time for Bonding

            Joseph stood alone at the entrance to the cave and saw the first light of dawn touch the eastern horizon.  It had been a long night.  The child had been born some six hours ago.  The shepherds had come and gone, and now his wife Mary was in the cave with her infant son.  Joseph had stepped outside, apparently to get a bit of fresh air.  After all, the air in the stable, though warm, was somewhat stale.  The truth was he just needed a little time by himself—to think things over.

            “Lord, what is going on?’ he silently prayed.  “There is so much inside my heart that I just have to tell someone.  To whom can I bare my soul?  To whom can I tell all the strange things that have been happening?  Who will believe me if I say I have been visited by an angel?  I’ve told Mary, of course.  She believes me.  But do I believe her?  Has this child really been conceived by your Holy Spirit?  My family, friends, and neighbors have been casting rather peculiar glances in my direction these past few months.  I’m not deaf.  I can hear their whisperings.  It’s no wonder that hardly anyone in town brings me business any more.  On the other hand, I have never known Mary to lie to me.  Yet where’s the consolation in believing?  Am I fit to raise the Son of the Most High?  That’s how the angel described him to Mary.  At least that is what Mary told me.  I don’t know what to believe.  All I know for sure is that I am not the father of that child, and if I go along with this game, no son of mine will ever be heir to my name.  I come from noble ancestry.  My family can trace its origins all the way back to King David.  Is this to be the end of my regal lineage?  Am I to have no heir of my own?  Come to think of it, I wasn’t even given the right to name the child as I would have wished.  I would have wanted to call him Jacob—after my father.  The name Jesus is one I would never have chosen.  If I am to play such a key part in your plans, Lord, don’t I get even some say in the matter?  Right now I feel so helpless, so alone.  I’m confused.  Please help me.  I need….”

            “Joseph.”  Mary’s hushed voice interrupted his thoughts.  “Joseph, I’m so tired.  Would you please hold the baby so I can rest a while?”

            Hold the baby?  That was something he had not yet done.  There had been so much activity these last few hours, so many things to do.

            With a mixture of reluctance, fear, and longing, Joseph put down his prayerful musings.  He came to Mary and reached out his arms to the infant.  Mary smiled as he gingerly took the swaddled bundle, being ever so careful of the head.  The next thing he knew, he was staring down at the tiny dark eyes peering up at him from the wrinkled face.  He could feel the baby tremble ever so slightly, and he held the helpless newborn close to his heart for protection against the cold.

            “How frail he is,” Joseph thought.  “Can this really be the Son of God—so weak, so vulnerable?  Do I dare move?”

            Just how long he stood there, transfixed, with the child in his arms, he could not tell.  Then all at once, from somewhere deep in his chest, came a series of tremendous sobs, and a flood of tears rained down upon the baby’s head and cheeks.  In that moment, there was forged a bond between the two, a bond of love so strong that it would last for all eternity.  Joseph wanted to give thanks, but all he could do was whisper the words:  “My Jesus!  My God!  My Son!”


            Every now and then, we read stories of how certain saints were privileged to hold the infant Jesus in their arms.  St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua in the thirteenth century and St. Felix of Cantalice in the sixteenth century are just three examples of holy men who were actually given the grace to embrace the Christ-child.  Yet I believe that each of us is called to hold Baby Jesus, if not in our arms, then certainly in our hearts.  Just as parents “bond” with their children—that is what psychologists call it—just as parents bond with their children by holding them in their arms, so we can bond with the infant Jesus by holding Him in our hearts.  If we can forge a bond of love with the Christ-child now in this Christmas Season, then we will continue to love Him as He preaches to us in His public ministry, as He carries His cross to Calvary, and as He touches our lives in the Sacraments.

              O Mary, Mother of God, we have been so very busy.  Teach us how to put down our worries and concerns and to embrace Infant Jesus in our hearts.  Help us to spend time now with the Christ-child so that our hearts bond with His.  Banish our fears and frustrations, and show us how easy it is to love your newborn Baby.  Help us to nurture this Life, which your obedience has given to us.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Our Lord.  Amen.

            God bless you!  Merry Christmas!