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3rd Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Christ

By Jennifer Hartline
December 20th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In our world, material poverty means to be vulnerable, shunned, and perhaps worst of all, invisible.  Poverty is empty and deprived. What a stunning paradox then that God would offer Himself to us in poverty.  It's disarmingly brilliant.  We cannot refute the love of a God who sheds His riches and might and gives Himself to us in poverty.  He sought to inspire our affection and devotion rather than command our submission.

WASHINGTON, D.C.
(Catholic Online) - "She gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  Luke 2:7

Let this mystery teach us poverty.

When I think about poverty, my immediate, internal reaction is to cringe in fear and be repulsed.  Poverty is not something I find enchanting.  My instinct for self-preservation vehemently rejects the prospect of poverty.  In our world, material poverty means to be vulnerable, shunned, and perhaps worst of all, invisible.  Poverty is empty and deprived.

What a stunning paradox then that God would offer Himself to us in poverty.  Omnipotent, All-possessing King lies helpless and needy in humiliating surroundings.  He who commands the sun to shine and our hearts to beat within our chests comes powerless into our world in the wee hours of night to be greeted by cows and sheep. 

It's disarmingly brilliant.  We cannot refute the love of a God who sheds His riches and might and gives Himself to us in poverty.  He did not come with frightening awe and intimidating splendor so we would cower before Him in fear.  He came to us small, weak, dependent and poor.  He sought to inspire our affection and devotion rather than command our submission.

As much as I may fear the possibility of material poverty the much more fearsome prospect is to never be poor in spirit.  Who are the poor in spirit?  Only those brave souls who know how truly pitiful is their human state, who willingly admit their wretchedness before a holy God.  They know they are nothing and God is everything.

More than just a superficial knowing, the poor in spirit acknowledge their frailty truthfully, without making light of their sin.  They can do this because they live with joy and confidence in His mercy!  It takes courage and honesty to see myself as I truly am, without shining up my sin and spritzing perfume on my foul offenses.

If gold could have relieved our troubles and lifted us out of our darkness, then Jesus could have simply come in His Royalty and tossed us bags of coins.  If physical power and strength was all we needed to defeat our enemy, then the Invincible could have come with His armies and settled the whole matter in minutes.  He came to us in poverty so we would see that all we will ever need is who He is.

We need Him, the person of Jesus.  Only He can save us, because we don't need wealth or power - we need mercy.  We need the Love that came to us empty-handed and offers us eternity.

The illusion of our goodness keeps us full of ourselves, but the poor in spirit have Christ as their inheritance, for they know how empty they truly are and so they are filled with Him.  "Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."

Gentle Mother, teach me to empty myself as you did, that I might be filled with Your Son and claim Him as my inheritance.

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Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven).  She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.  She is also a serious chocoholic.  Visit her at My Chocolate Heart.

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