"We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways."
As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:
Ask God to recognize and know the Lord Jesus as your mentor for a life of love and service.
By Fr. Gary Smith, S.J.
JRS Limpopo Project
Makhado, South Africa
Makhado, 11 November 2010 – One Christmas Eve, while serving in the Jesuit Refugee Service Rhino Camp Project in northern Uganda, I celebrated Mass for the Sudanese refugees at the poor village of Agulupi. We were in a small thatch-covered chapel. It was a hot night, thick with humidity. An army of flying bugs. Lots of dust. A kerosene lamp hung on a wooden pillar to the right of the altar.
There were young girls dancing and singing in front of the altar. In one hymn, they imitated the wailing of the new baby Jesus, forearms over their eyes; it was an echo, too, of weeping Sudanese refugees lamenting their flight from a civil war: their losses and their suffering. And yet in spite of all the stinking poverty of Agulupi and the heartache of the past, these moments — just as with Christ’s birth in a barn — pointed toward hope and meaning.
The Agulupi liturgy centered on a baby; the Nativity Meditation starts with a baby. In serving refugees we have seen babies born and strapped to their mothers’ backs; we’ve seen malarial and dead babies; we’ve held wailing and giggling babies; we’ve seen the poignant faces of the new mothers of babies.
You want to follow Christ? Then begin here. The Christ child is the gleaming lynchpin that unites our longing to respond to the Call of the Kingdom and how it is done. After we have pondered the high-octane theology of the Incarnation, the Nativity points us to the way that the heart of God comes into the world and therefore the way we are to follow: In humility. In mercy. In desire.
How do we explain this journey of the everlasting God across the border into history? On one level the intellect protests. One theologian counters: “But love does such things!’” There’s a thought. Maybe it’s THE thought. Its truth sustains the stars and ignites the fire of JRS.
To know, love and serve Christ begins in the contemplation of his Nativity. Luke’s words contain the diamond that we will always clutch to our hearts: they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger.
Address God as a friend speaks to a friend.
Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.
End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.