Growing up, my mom began a tradition where each Sunday of Advent she would hide Mary and Joseph around the house, and after Mass, us kids would all race each other into the house so we could be the first to find Mary and Joseph. Each week, Mary and Joseph could be found a little closer to the manger as they traveled closer to our “Bethlehem.” Finally, after midnight Mass, one last time, we kids would race into the house, but this time, to find baby Jesus. Each year one of us would get the great privilege of placing Jesus in the manger, but only after we had sung both “Happy Birthday,” and “Joy to the World” to our beloved Saviour. This little tradition my mom began for us when we were little, served as a means for her to make the story of Christmas come alive for us. It enabled us to “feel” and “touch” the nativity story, and invited us to begin as young children to encounter the humanity and divinity of Christ according to our capacity as children. This encounter with the divine is the great mystery of Christmas, and should change us, not only leading us to receive the mercy and extravagant love of our Saviour, but also cause us to look outside of ourselves to see where we can encounter the Christ Child in our world, and how we can present Him to others.
Pope Francis recently wrote an apostolic letter entitled “Admirbile Signum” (“Enchanting Image”). In this letter, Pope Francis encourages the faithful to enter into the mystery of the nativity and allow it to come alive in each of our hearts. He writes,
“[the nativity] shows God’s tender love: the Creator of the universe lowered himself to take on our littleness….The nativity scene has invited us to “feel” and “touch” the poverty that God’s Son took upon himself in the Incarnation. Implicitly, it summons us to follow him along the path of humility, poverty, and self-denial that leads from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross. It asks us to meet him and serve him by showing mercy to those of our brothers and sisters in greatest need.”
Christmas is supposed to change us; the first Christmas was the first encounter with our Saviour of the world. The Church is mindful of the magnanimity of this event, and encourages us to enter into the story of our salvation—the story of Christ’s birth. How can we enter into this mystery amidst all the busyness of this season?
1) Invite Jesus into the busyness. He was born in a stable, I think he can understand the often chaotic nature of our lives, and rather than feel like we have to have it all together, I encourage you to invite him to meet you there. He loves being with us, even amidst our chaos and busyness.
2) Put your nativity set in a prominent location this year, and every time you walk by, walk into the scene in some way. Perhaps you are one of the shepherds, with no idea what is happening, but yet somehow you are at the stable. Maybe you are a donkey, and you just want to eat your hay, but now there is a baby laying in it. Perhaps the world is beating you up good, and you just want to lie next to our blessed Mother and take a nap. Maybe you are not a traditional character in the nativity scene but find yourself there anyways, perhaps a musician, a busy mom, or construction worker– not all nativity scenes have to be traditional. Wherever you are, meet Jesus there, walk into the story, and ask Jesus what he desires to speak to you this Advent and Christmas season. Tell Jesus you want to encounter him anew this Advent season, and ask Him for a Christmas miracle. His heart aches to be close to yours, will you give him the opportunity to be close to you and speak to your heart?
3) Ask yourself who the Lord is inviting you to bring with you to the stable. Whether it is through a smile, a work of mercy, or perhaps literally inviting someone to a Christmas mass, who is Jesus placing in your life to use you as an instrument to encounter Him? Then ask Mary for courage so you can be an authentic witness of Christ’s love.
Wherever you are at this Christmas season, know this—our Lord loves you, and there is nothing that comforts His heart more than telling you that. He desires to be with you, this is why He came to earth, and this is why we celebrate Christmas. “Wherever it is, and whatever form it takes… Christmas… speaks to us of the love of God, the God who became a child in order to make us know how close he is to every man, woman and child, regardless of their condition.” *
I pray that you may encounter our little Saviour in new and powerful ways this Christmas season, and I pray our Lady leads you close to her sleeping Son, and tells you about Him in ways you have not understood before.
See you in the Eucharist,
PS- Read Pope Francis’ new letter if time permits, it’s a treat.
* Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter “Admirabile Signum” art. 10