Christmas is for everyone. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, you are welcome. Saint or sinner, you are welcome. Young or old, there is room for you at the crib. There was no room for the Child and his mother, as you know. But there is great room for you.
Come and be there because the gift the Child looks for is you. To kneel or sit by the crib, or simply to read or listen to the story of that birth in Bethlehem (Lk Ch 2) and to tell him how welcome he is in your life is the best gift of all.
If yours is a hard life, if yours is a broken heart, if your lot is a huge loneliness, bring it to him. Stay there in silence, with gratitude, however faint, in your heart and trust this Child who is God. You are truly ‘the apple of his eye’ (Ps17). And if you can, be like that little drummer boy of the carol and ‘play your best for him’; you can be sure that he will smile on you.
What gift will you bring the Child in the manger? Sometimes we are so busy getting gifts ready for others we can neglect the One who is at the centre of the celebration. Yet it is because of him, though we may not know it, that we are deluged with ads and brochures and soundbytes enticing us to buy this or that special object for this or that special person.
Many who have never heard of Christ or his mother greatly enjoy the festive season. They may be closer to the Lord than they know as they reach out, giving alms, sharing meals, visiting the lonely or the confined. Behind the tinsel and glitter, the parties, the raucous songs, there often beat hearts that are good and giving and delightful to God. These are the best gifts of all, caring and serving the poor among us.
On that first Holy Night, it was not to Caesar or Herod or to any of the learned scribes that the angel came but to a group of insignificant shepherds on a hillside. They would find the Child, the angel told them, ‘lying in a manger’. And so they did, exactly as he had said.
We can imagine ‘the smell of the sheep’, to quote Pope Francis, that filled the space that night as these rough and ready poor men came in. They had come with haste to see ‘this thing’ and they found what the angel had told them – the long awaited Messiah. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
Like Mary, and with her, let us too ponder this wonder-full event, the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, recalling the startling words of the thirteenth century Dominican, Meister Eckhart: “What good is it to me that Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago, and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture?”
Put aside our mobile phones, our tablets, our play lists, our games and give real time, loving time, to the God who became a Child for us. In these dark days, joy awaits us, peace enfolds us, and hope rises mightily in us as we welcome this Child into our lives.
Sr Redempta Twomey is Assistant Editor of the Far East magazine.
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