But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.
Though I trusted in your mercy,
let my heart rejoice in your salvation. (R./)
Let me sing of the Lord,
He has been good to me. (R./)
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
The genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."
When and where Our Lady was born is not recorded by the Evangelists. Most likely she was born about sixteen years before the birth of Jesus, in the village of Nazareth, where we meet her for the first time, at the Annunciation (Lk 1:26). After the Council of Ephesus in 431, when the Blessed Virgin Mary was designated as "Theotokos " ("Mother of God"), devotion to her spread in the Western Church. But well before that time, the joy of her birth was warmly remembered and celebrated among the Christians of Palestine.
A devotional Christian text, the Protevangelium of James, probably written in the 2nd-century, tells how Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, brought her to the temple at a very early age. Today would be a good time to read this pre-Gospel story, to reflect upon the special graces surrounding Mary’s birth. The author, probably a Palestinian Christian, narrates how her parents were eagerly longing for a child; and when eventually God granted her to them, they wished to dedicate her, body and soul, to the service of God in the Jerusalem temple.
She, who was to bring our Saviour into the world, would be a loving tabernacle of flesh for the living God, since it was in her womb, by the power of the Spirit, that the incarnate Son of God was conceived and developed. As his greatness would reach to the ends of the earth, so (says the Protevangelium) the grace of God was visible in his mother, from the beginning. According to this text, when Mary’s father, Joachim, brought the customary offerings to the temple, he knew that the Lord has blessed him; and he went down to his own house, happy. "And after nine months Anna bore a child. And she asked the midwife: ‘What have I delivered?’ and she said: ‘A girl.’ And Anna said: "My soul has been magnified this day!" and she laid her down. And in due time, Anna was purified, and she suckled the child and called her name Mary."
The deep driving force of Mary’s life was loving obedience to the will of God. This must be the intention of all who call themselves Christians, sharing in the very life of Christ Jesus himself. The prelude to Christ’s arrival began with the birth of Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne. With delight we rejoice in the Lord who has been good to us through this marvellous daughter of Israel.
We remember the birthdays of people who are important in our lives. We also remember the birthday, those who are significant for our faith life. The central person in terms of our faith life as Christians is, of course, Jesus, and we remember his birthday on Christmas day. Next to Jesus, Mary is the most central person for the faith life of many Christians, and it is only fitting that the church remembers her birthday.
We don’t know when exactly Mary was born, but September 8 is when the church celebrates her birthday. When we wish someone a happy birthday we also show appreciation for that person’s whole life. Today we give thanks for Mary’s life of love and service. While the Gospels report only the birth of Jesus, we celebrate Mary’s birthday precisely because through her the Saviour came to us. She is the one through whom we receive Emmanuel, God-with-us. Mary doesn’t focus upon herself; instead she offers us her Son, holds him out to us. The words of John the Baptist apply to her: "He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease." The best way to honour Mary is to welcome the Son she brought us. We aim to become, like herself, people who hear the word of God and act upon it. (Lk 11:28