Engaging Faith | Thu, Dec 17, 2009
December 25, 2009
Midnight: Isaiah 9:1-6: Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
December 26: Feast of Saint Stephen
December 26: Start of Kwanzaa
December 27: Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents
In the crib we contemplate the One who stripped himself of divine glory in order to become poor, driven by love for humankind.
John Paul II, Christmas 2003
Real blood was shed at this delivery, by a poor woman of peasant society far from home, laboring in childbirth for the first time. And it was holy.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, Truly Our Sister, 277
Our Savior is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.
Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2006
We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve the poor because they are Jesus.
- Mother Teresa, In My Own Words
The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the face of the "God who saves" did not show himself only for a certain few, but for everyone.
Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2008
Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.
Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2008
Thoughts for your consideration
Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas 2008 Urbi et Orbi Message wrote: ‘If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart."
As we contemplate any child who has just been born, and as we contemplate the child Jesus in the manger something happens. We focus on something or someone outside of ourselves.
Christmas can be focused on great selfishness.
What do I want for Christmas?
What will I get for Christmas?
Will I be happy at Christmas?
Christmas can be focused on great generosity.
What can I do for the other?
How can I make someone else’s Christmas better?
Will my family and friends be happy at Christmas?
Will everyone be happy at Christmas?
How will do the poor make out?
Christmas can also challenge us to be open to a new world.
The fact that Jesus was born poor and homeless calls us to see things in a new way. More than that, the details of Jesus’ birth challenges us to be engaged with those who are poor and powerless today – with those who are living the human experience of poverty or injustice.
We are invited to see how the experience of those in the Christmas story is not unlike the experience of millions of refugees and displaced people in our world today, of children born into poverty, of agricultural workers who have no land of their own, of the poor or unemployed in the US who are losing their benefits, of the those who are homeless, of those who are caught up in the events of war and terrorist acts, of those who are anxious about their savings, of those who have seen the value of their savings go down, of those who have lost jobs or homes, of those who are still among the millions living in some form of slavery, of those denied basic human rights, of those whose lives are controlled by the power of large corporations and impersonal governments, of those who go on with their busy lives without any significant awareness of the presence and goodness of God in the ordinary things of life.
More Thoughts for your consideration
The commentator, Anna Quindlen, in the December 22, 2008 issue of Newsweek, wrote a piece called "Stuff Is Not Salvation." [It can be found at http://www.newsweek.com/id/174265 .] She reflects on the recession that is gripping the world and writes about families who are not poor, but also are not focused on things or gifts.
…. there is a family like one I know in rural Pennsylvania, raising bees for honey (and for the science, and the fun, of it), digging a pond out of the downhill flow of the stream, with three kids who somehow, incredibly, don't spend six months of the year whining for the toy du jour. (The youngest once demurred when someone offered him another box on his birthday; "I already have a present," he said.) The mother of the household says having less means her family appreciates possessions more. "I can give you a story about every item, really," she says of what they own. In other words, what they have has meaning. And meaning, real meaning, is what we are always trying to possess. Ask people what they'd grab if their house were on fire, the way our national house is on fire right now. No one ever says it's the tricked-up microwave they got at Wal-Mart.
Think about the child who said "I already have a present." What a different spirit from that of our culture! The salvation that we celebrate on Christmas is not a rejoicing in the stuff we possess or even the stuff we are able to give as gifts. Gifts can be important reminders of something more. However, the "ultimate symbol" is the birth of a child, God’s gift to us. The most important value is not in keeping more things for ourselves but in sharing what we have. Christmas is a celebration of community, life and joy. The angels in the gospel story in Luke say it very well: "And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
In the mass at Midnight, we hear in the works of Isaiah: "For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed." The values of the new born child smash the values of consumerism, greed, and fear.
Christmas calls us to see things in a new way. We are called to see the salvation of God in a homeless child rather than in wealth, consumption, power, honors, or status of any sort. We are called to create a world based on the values of this child.
We all need things, but we need something more than things. Anna Quindlen writes in the same article I quoted above:
Oh, there is still plenty of need. But it is for real things, things that matter: college tuition, prescription drugs, rent. Food pantries and soup kitchens all over the country have seen demand for their services soar. Homelessness, which had fallen in recent years, may rebound as people lose their jobs and their houses. For the first time this month, the number of people on food stamps will exceed the 30 million mark.
Questions for your Faith Sharing Community
How is this Christmas different for you and your family because of the economy?
How is your celebration different or how do you see things differently?
When have you celebrated Christmas with "the poor"? What did you learn?
In the US culture we experience certain temptations to distort the central message of Christmas. Which one do you experience most profoundly?
How does this temptation affect you and your family?
Actions - Links
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is "a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children." You can advocate for children by going online at http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-advocacy-resources-center/take-act...
Peace in the Holy Land
The Arab Educational Institute (affiliated with Pax Christi International} invites people to send electronic Christmas Peace and Justice Wishes & Prayers to the people of Bethlehem. For info about how to do it, go to http://www.aeicenter.org/aei/archives/Prayers-Wishes2009.htm .
For 10 consecutive years, Christmas celebrations have taken place in a difficult climate for people in the Holy Land. As we prepare to celebrate Advent and Christmas in the security of our homes and communities, let us not forget to pray for justice, peace and security for Palestine and Israel. Peace Message for Christmas“Claudette Werleigh, Secretary General of Pax Christi International, issued a Christmas Message for Radio Vaticano. The mystery of Nativity reminds us also of our fragility, the importance of simplicity, the need to turn ourselves toward what is most important, what is essential. The mystery of Nativity carries a message of Peace to bring to and to proclaim with all people of good will.” Read it at http://storage.paxchristi.net/2009-0895-en-gl-PS.pdf The Politics of Joy
Brian McLaren, chair of the board of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, wrote a short piece called “The Politics of Joy,” reflecting on some themes coming from some well-known Christmas songs. http://www.beliefnet.com/blogs/godspolitics/2006/12/brian-mclaren-politics-of-joy.html “Crazy Facts”The following can be found at the Washington Post for Dec. 12, 2009
Prayers of IntercessionResponse: May the child lead us to peace.
For an end to the way of violence and war, we pray….
For all who are living the experience of poverty, we pray….
For refugees and other displaced people, we pray….
For all our children, we pray….
For the elderly, we pray….
For those who are far from home, especially those who serve abroad, we pray….
For those without jobs that pay a living wage, we pray….
For peace and justice for all, we pray….
For genuine joy for all the people, we pray….
Prayers“Churches for Middle East Peace” has A Christmas Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem at http://www.cmep.org/Statements/s14.htm . Almighty God, you have come to us as a small child and brought us the gift of eternal love. We thank you for the prophets' hope, for the angels' songs, for the wondrous birth of the Savior. We thank you for the star to guide us to Jesus. We thank you for the promise of peace on earth and goodwill toward all people. Help us, we pray at this Christmas time, to celebrate your promise of peace by living with hope for justice. In this season of joy, our thoughts focus on the little town of Bethlehem, nestled in the hills near Jerusalem. Yet even as our hearts are warmed with familiar songs of Christmas, we remember that the children of Abraham - Jews, Christians and Muslims - who still live in these sacred places are not yet at peace. We pray that you will guide those in positions of authority that they may strive sincerely for justice and compassion in the Holy Land. Like Jesus, we too are drawn to the City of David, the City of Peace. Help us, O God, as we resolve anew to pray and to work for the peace of Jerusalem. Give us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to pursue a pastoral and prophetic ministry. Enable us to be agents of reconciliation and hope in Jerusalem, in our own neighborhoods and throughout the world: through Jesus Christ our Lord. +++++ When the song of the angels is stilled,When the star in the sky is gone,When the kings and princes are home,When the shepherds are back with their flock,The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman, African-American mystic