Today is the feast of Stephen. I chose this great saint and first martyr of the Church to be my patron at my Confirmation. So, that makes it my feast day as well. This morning I went down to the Church of the Nativity to see if maybe things would be a little quieter and I could pray. As I walked down to the Church I could tell that all the people of the last few days were gone and things were already back to normal. I was able to go down in the grotto of the church and sit next to the manger for a few hours and pray. They have placed a statue of the infant Jesus lying in a crib in the manger now. There were a few groups of pilgrims that came through while I was there it is often moving to see the great faith of the people that come. I was particularly taken by a couple groups of families from Korea. The father gathered all the children together with his wife and they all prayed together at the manger. There were also many more small children coming today and it was neat when the little kids would climb up into the manger to see the Baby Jesus.
As I prayed this morning, my thoughts again returned to the shepherds, the first visitors to the manger. After receiving the message of the angel they had to go search and find the Christ child. What joy they would have experienced when they finally arrived at the cave and found the Holy Family. I was reminded of my own search and desire to find Jesus. For a while this morning I was able to share in the joy of the shepherds as I sat there and contemplated the miraculous things that took place here. The shepherds left the cave full of joy and wanted to go and tell everyone what they had seen. Their message has gone to the ends of the world now. This morning, following in the footsteps of those first humble shepherds, I and many others came to see the place where the Child was laid. Praise God for the wonderful Christmas gift of His Son.