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updated 4:57 PM UTC, May 7, 2024

Inconveniences of Christmas

 

By Fra. Dolphy Pious OFMCap, Collegio San Lorenzo, Rome

 

Some years ago Dina Donohue was teaching a Grade 2 class in London. At one Christmas her class had to produce a Christmas pageant for the annual Christmas celebrations. Dina gave out the various parts for the pageant to her students. Ralph was a problem. He was a big boy for his years and was clumsy, slow-thinking and slow – moving, but was liked by his classmates, as he turned out to be a natural protector. Ralph wanted to be Joseph or the shepherd with a flute. Dona gave him the innkeeper’s role. He had only to refuse lodging to Joseph, and with his size and clumsiness he would be more impressive in that role, thought Dina.

After a long practices each child and Dina were looking for success. The school auditorium was filled with family and friends for the yearly school extravaganza. Non one in the audience or on the stage was more caught up in the magic of that night than Ralph, who would be appearing on the stage for the first time in his life. The play progressed without any major mishaps until Joseph appeared, walking slowly, tenderly helping Mary to the door of the inn. He knocked hard on the wooden door of the inn. Ralph opened the door and shouted, “What do you want?” as required. “We are looking for lodgings”, said Joseph. “There is no room here,” Ralph shouted once again. “Please, innkeeper,” said Joseph, “this is my wife Mary. She is with child and rest for the night. She is tired.” Ralph went silent! “No, be-gone” prompted teacher Dina from behind the curtain several times. Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and started to turn away. Ralph, the innkeeper neither screamed ‘No, be-gone’ nor closed the door as he was directed to do. He looked perplexed and concerned. His eyes were filled with tears.

Suddenly the Christmas pageant became very different than planned! “Don’t go Joseph. Please don’t go,” Ralph called, making up his own lines, very different from what was practiced for so long, “don’t go. Bring Mary back. You can have my room!”

Not only teacher Dina’s, but the eyes of most of the crowd were filled with tears of joy, as in a moment the choir of angels, consisting of the whole of the remaining grade 2 students entered the stage caroling their Christmas Song.

“Joseph, you can have my room”. A beautiful sentence helps us to have right spirit during this Christmas. Do you have room for Christ in your life? Yes, I can have room for Christ only when I accept whole heartedly the inconveniences of life. An authentic life cannot be without the life’s inconveniences. Life is mixture of both joys and sorrows, inconveniences and conveniences. Christmas is all about accepting inconveniences of life.

The protagonists of Christmas are Jesus, Mary and Joseph who had to face lots of inconveniences before the birth and after the birth of Christ. The list is as follows:

Long distance travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a woman who was pregnant and was nearing her date of delivery is really tiresome. How we accept our tiredness? Tiredness is a sign of hard work, intellectual, manual. The challenge lies in accepting joyfully this tiredness as part of our lives.

Mary and Joseph did not find any place in the inn, this was a kind of rejection. There are many occasions in our lives we feel rejected due to many reasons, how we accept this rejection?

Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a dirty manger. The poverty of the holy family. Are we happy with the minimum or we become part of consumeristic society having more than what we need?

Over night the holy family had to flee to Egypt, an unknown land, out of fear of Herod who plotted to kill child Jesus, it must have caused lots of anxiety and tension to Joseph and Mary. How we handle our unavoidable anxieties and tensions of life?

Jesus who was Son of God had to strip Himself of His divine glory and take up humble human form. The humility of Jesus through kenosis. Desiring for power, authority, importance in life, seeking respect and honor, all these ideologies of the present world go against the spirit of kenosis.

God the Father had to sacrifice His Son out of love for humanity. Heaven’s Son became earth’s Savior. Here we find the spirit of sacrifice. We cannot imagine our lives without the spirit of sacrifice. Sacrifices make the life go onward. The sacrifices of parents, teachers, leaders, soldiers, farmers, workers, etc.

All these inconveniences in a way remind us of the Cross which was already present in the manger. The place that inspires the Nativity of our Lord Jesus normally is in dark, therefore, usually the cribs are adorned not with bright lights rather with dim lights.. The dark night is suddenly matched by the light coming from the cave. The night, says Prophet Isaiah, can in fact be the night of waiting for redemption, at the same that time is a time of vigil in hope. (Isaiah, 21) It is a contrasting presence in the life of each of us, made up of bright but also the dark moments. This juxtaposition of joys and sorrows, light and darkness, highlights the drama and beauty of our existence.

The night of St. Francis at Greccio is made up of some of the hardest moments in his life. I thought that in fact many of the events in the life of St. Francis resemble the real stations of the Cross.

St. Francis is known as a joyful saint. But there are times when he is portrayed crying. In the Treatise on Miracles, of Thomas of Celano, writes that he once burst into tears because the preacher had spoken of the poverty and destitution of Mary and Christ her son. St. Francis wept every time he recalled the crucifixion. The memory of Christ's passion was so vividly impressed on the innermost bowels of his heart, that, from that moment, when the crucifixion of Christ came to him, he could hardly restrain himself, even outwardly, from tears and sighs. These tears indicate his sentimental character, his tenderness. Tears are one of the ways in which energy is revealed in one of its expressions. Tears of St. Francis therefore, are rooted in Christ’ incarnation and his sufferings and at the same time profoundly open to other’s struggles. This is what Christmas is for St. Francis: a gesture of inclusion, of both joys and sorrows.

The Crib at Greccio made by St. Francis of Assisi highlights the poverty of Jesus and his mother Mary and Joseph, and the discomfort felt by the little baby. Thomas of Celano also places an emphasis on the three virtues of simplicity, poverty, and humility, and leads us to understand that the poverty of St. Francis is in emulation of the poverty of Jesus in his incarnation. For St. Francis, the external poverty of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem is representative of the radical poverty of the Incarnation.

Now a days, Christmas is very much commercialized. For many people Christmas is only sharing gifts, carols, eating, drinking, dancing, partying. In reality, Christmas is about giving meaning to our life with all its inconveniences. To bring joy to the humanity Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to face lots of inconveniences. Behind inconveniences there lies great love. Where there is love, one is ready to face any inconveniences. Because love is greater than the pain of inconveniences. Are we willing to face the inconveniences for God’s sake? Are we willing to sacrifice for love’s sake? Are we ready to accept all inconveniences of different types as the will of God? If so, we have room for Christ in our hearts!

(Thanks to Br. Dolphy Pius OFMCap for this inspiring article)