‘When did I last stop to speak to a homeless man/woman on the street?’

The joy of Christmas is for everyone – for those who are faithful, loving and giving; for those who are indifferent or hostile; for those who have turned away and walk no more to the stable at Bethlehem. The Child comes for all.

“He emptied himself” (Phil 2:5), to become as one of us with all the pain and vulnerability of a human person. From the beginning, from his birth, Jesus knew what it was to be poor, to be homeless. Far from their native place, among strangers, Mary and Joseph ended up in a stable for the birth of her child. In that awful situation did the words of the angel echo in her heart, “He will be great…the son of the Most High…” (Lk 2:32).

And Joseph, the provider and protector, what was his anguish on hearing again and again, “No room! No room!” Surely God could have eased the way even a little to help them? Strong, silent man that he was, he did not rail against the Lord, but with Mary walked in faith, alert to the resonance of God’s word leading him on.

In our comfortable, lighted homes, our padded jackets, our warm meals we risk forgetting how dark, cold and downright scary that first Christmas was. And we, who profess to love this Child and believe in him, risk today being insulated against the reality that all is not calm, all is not bright in our society.

We need to ask ourselves: when did I last stop to speak to a homeless man/woman on the street? Huddled in a doorway, holding out a battered coffee mug to get a few coins, unseen by most of us as we hurry by to shop, or lunch or meet our friends. But this is the very person Jesus would spend time with, would bring from the margins to the centre by his love, his respect, his absolute rejection of the unjust systems that create situations like these.

The homeless, the poor, the lonely, the forgotten are seen, are respected, are listened to by those who with eyes of faith see Christ in the people on the edge. “I was hungry…” (Mt: Ch 25). As we kneel at the crib this year, let us bring to the Child the gift he longs for – our love for him expressed, not just in words, but in our care and kindness to others, especially to those who are most in need.

“Only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful that to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him.” Benedict XVI.

Sr Redempta Twomey