Memories of childhood visits to scenes of the Bethlehem stable are treasures. It seemed that Christmas was especially for children.
We have St. Francis of Assisi to thank for bringing us the reality of the poor stable. And I have a pastor to thank for setting up a nearly life-sized stable in a school yard.
Unfortunately, the pastor provided a live donkey, who spent the nights in the first floor of the school. It became a free donkey and happily ran up down the hall, leaving reminders of its presence.
I do not know of any other major and ancient world religion that experienced its divine person coming to earth as an infant. But we love the stable scene, the young mother, the father, the shepherds, the cows and sheep. (In my family’s crèche, sheep got old, lost some legs, and had to be propped up; but no one dreamed of replacing these heirloom sheep.)
The God of Israel sent the Child to people who for centuries struggled to keep their faith in the One God alive. They sometimes stumbled, but they kept their hope alive. They didn’t expect an Infant, and did not expect a person who would fail, executed like a criminal.
God was, and is, full of surprises—and of graces.
Christmas is a happy time for us, whether we experience it in snow with sleigh bells or under palm trees. Christmas brings out the best in us: we want peace, and we think about giving. These thoughts are not far from the message that God sends to us through the Christ.
As we are reminded in the Scriptures, and in the liturgy, the Lord will come again. Our ancestors in the faith were impatient for the Day of the Lord. Some the descriptions of that day make me want to forget about it: trumpet calls, power and great glory, separation of sheep and goats. And then we remember that this is the God who looked on earth’s first creatures, and saw that they were good. And the Lord Who will be the Judge came to give His life for us.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”
Jeanne Hamilton, O.S.U.
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