A JOY TO BE SHARED.
While they were there the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Iinvite you to notice the efforts you make so that the other people may have a happy Christmas. Think of the cards you send and the presents you give. Think of the things you do for people in your own home, for your relations, friends and neighbours. Think of the food and drink you share, the visits you make and the greetings you exchange. Think of the donations you make to good causes in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You are at pains not to forget anyone; you want to include everyone in the good time of Christmas and you do your best to see that nobody is left out or forgotten.
Room for everyone in the stable.
When Jesus was born in a stable, anyone could walk in and be sure of a welcome from Mary and Joseph. If he had been born in the palace of Caesar Augustus in Rome, or in the residence of Quirinius, the governor of Syria, only the rich and important could come and see him. If he had been born in the inn, maybe the shepherds would not be admitted, since they were considered to be neither religious nor respectable. Anyone and everyone could come to the stable and not be afraid or overawed. When the angel appeared to the shepherds he told them that he brought them news of great joy to be shared, not just by some people but by the whole people..
This is how Jesus was born, and how he lived all through his life. While he worked as a carpenter up to the age of thirty, he was seen as an ordinary person in the village; anyone one could come to him. When he left Nazareth in the last three years of his life, he did not go to the religious leaders in Jerusalem; he went to the poor people, the sick and the sinners. People from all walks of life approached him; he always left the ninety-nine to go and look for the lost one. No one was left out or forgotten. When he was dying on the cross, the two thieves could talk to him because he was there between them.
During the past two thousand years, whenever the followers of Jesus have been faithful to him, they have tried to include everyone and take special care of those who are on the outside. Mother Teresa was a striking example of this. Closer to home we find individuals and organizations helping refugees and emigrants find their way in a strange and sometimes hostile environment; we have become aware of the evil of racism, and decent people are appalled when foreign nationals are disrespected.
There are always good people who continue to reach out even to those most difficult to help; I think of voluntary organizations who provide accommodation for alcoholics and drug addicts who are put out of other night shelters because of their disruptive behaviour.
Less to spend, more to enjoy.
At Christmas then, we imitate God as we try to make room for everybody. He invites us to go a step further. We spend far more than we need to in our efforts to make Christmas a happy one for ourselves, our families and our friends. Older people remember times when there was much less to spend, and the celebrations were not necessarily the poorer for that. In a just world there would be no extravagance and everyone would have enough. In such a world there would be more faith in a loving God who cares for all his children; there would be less isolation and loneliness, and more love, more sharing and probably more fun. And it would be easier for the world to believe that the coming of Jesus is a great joy to be shared by all the people.
Prayer: ( from the Mass of Christmas Day)
God of love, Father of all,
the darkness that covered the earth
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make up a people of this light.
Make up faithful to your Word,
that we may bring your life to the waiting world.