After a long evening of candlelight, beautiful music, and readings from Isaiah and Luke, I found my way through the darkness of night to my living room. We had just finished extinguishing the final candles of Christmas Eve. The weariness had set in, yet the joy was immense as I found the remote and began watching the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass from Rome. It has become a Christmas Eve or rather Christmas morning tradition in the last few years following our late 11pm worship service.
I began eating a Christmas cookie when I heard the words translated during the distribution of Eucharist. Pope Francis shared these words during his Christmas Eve homily:
Let us allow the Child in the manger to challenge us, but let us also be challenged by all those children in today’s world who are lying not in a crib, caressed with affection by their mothers and fathers, but in squalid “mangers that devour dignity”. Children who hide underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of large cities, in the hold of a boat overladen with immigrants… Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one relieves their hunger, by those who hold in their hands not toys, but weapons.
I’m not sure if it was my fatigue or the thought of my child sleeping in the next room in safety, quiet, and peace; but these words struck me. As I hold my baby boy, I’m sure I experience the same feelings that the new parents Mary and Joseph felt. They saw the face of the Christ in their child, I am challenged to do the same. They wanted peace, health, and safety for their child, yet their child was born into poverty and quickly became an immigrant seeking sanctuary (Matthew 2: 13-23).
Images of the bloody child in Aleppo came to mind. I couldn’t help but think about the little boy who drowned seeking a better life with his family. My mind wandered rapidly. What about the children who are fearful in our nation that their father’s will be deported? What about the little ones who don’t have enough to eat? What about the world my child lives in?
As Pope Francis reminded me that Christmas Eve night, let us see the face of the Christ child in all children. Let us see the holy not just in a fake manger in our yards or on decorations, but in those places of unrest, violence, and uncertainty.
On Christmas Day, a part of our prayer hymn for that Sunday was the song Star Child with words written by Shirley Erena Murray. The third verse of this song is “Street child, beat child, no place left to go, hurt child, used child no one wants to know,” with the refrain, “This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.”
This is the first full week of the New Year and the last week of the season of Christmas. May it be our hope, prayer, and work to bring Christmas to everyone, not just a few. While the season will end, may the Spirit of Christmas continue in the work of those who follow the Christ child from the manger of poverty into the wilderness of fleeing home into immigration seeking safety and sanctuary.
The image you see of the little boy is not a drawing of just a child sleeping at night. It is an artist’s depiction on what Christmas could have looked like for the little boy who drowned fleeing Syria. Christ is in that face.
On this ninth day of the season of Christmas, Jesus is no longer found in the manger. He is found among the children of our world seeking hope, love, peace, and the Spirit of Christmas. Let us continue the work of Christmas and bring Christmas to every child.