Five friends got together to prepare for Christmas. It turned out to be a real blessing. Praise the Lord!
We were open and we were able to share. Praise the Lord! The oldest was 60 and the youngest was 17. But it was not the age gap or even the communication level. I would say that it was the grace given us, and the common factor was our faith in God. We were there to be thankful for yet another Christmas. For one person it was going to be the first Christmas and for another it was going to be the umpteenth time to remember and to celebrate the great moment of the Saviour’s birth.
Christmas – this is going to spell different things for different people. I hear that someone is going to Bethlehem to join in the Eucharistic celebration. That is interesting. It reminds me of the first trip I made there a long time ago. It was a year after my Baptism and I was really so young in my faith journey. So many things to see, so many things to do, so many things to buy….the world was still so attractive and so distracting.
What I recall now is that on the night of Christmas, we were all there right after dinner at about 8 at night. We waited to get into the church where the celebration would take place at midnight. Although it was winter, we were all packed like sardines and we were so hot and sweaty that our warm woollen wear had to be removed. Imagine that!
The wait was a long one. I had not the grace to ask the Lord to help me understand. It was only many years later at a retreat that I was able to recall that our Lord did not have it easy either. No, it was a terrible time. Mary our Mother needed a place to give birth to our Saviour. Joseph was moving from one inn to another to seek a place. Every room had been taken up. No place for the Holy One for whom and in whom and through whom the whole universe has been created. The irony of it all! Yet, this is nothing surprising for our Lord became poor so we might be rich in him. He came down from heaven to save us. We must rejoice in this Good News! We must celebrate!
Years later, I sought pardon. I repented of my evil thoughts, having complained about that night. The mass was long and the language was foreign to my ears. I was cold. I was also hungry. I did not like having to be pushed here and there. It seemed like madness for me to be there, standing for hours on end. I murmured. I spoke harshly. At three in the morning, I had to go and stand near the statue of St Jerome to wait for the bus that would take us back to the hotel. I recalled the way my teeth were chattering in the cold, my hands numb and my belly growling. And it was no consolation to hear even the tour leader say that she would not recommend such a mass again!
Yet, years later, I can thank our Lord for letting me go through that Christmas in Bethlehem. It has helped me to understand better. So many lessons for me to learn.
Yes, Lord, you did not have it easy. You did not complain. You accepted it all out of love for me. Lord, be praised!
Our reflection will continue next week. May it help us to be more grateful, more thankful and more ready to return the love of our Saviour for each one of us.