A few days ago, in Germany, a priest went into his church to pray.
The church was decorated for the season,
as ours has been, the past few days—
including a nativity scene all set up, ready for Christmas.
He was praying, and suddenly he heard a sound—
the sound of a baby, crying—it came from the manger.
The priest covered the child to keep him warm,
and called an ambulance.
An investigation found a woman, a poor immigrant,
who had recently given birth,
and had left the child in the church’s crib,
hoping someone could care for the boy.
Every year, we prepare our church in a familiar way;
the nativity scene is all set up, and at the Mass on Christmas Eve,
we place the bambino in the crib—
but what if we—like that priest—found a baby already there?
What might that child look like?
What color would he or she be? What culture and background?
Of course, we would care for the child, feed and clothe her;
we would try to find a home.
This Christmas arrives, a little colder and darker—
and I don’t mean the weather.
There are always women, like that woman in Germany,
who need our help;
this year, there seem to be even more.
The children may not be placed here;
we will find them elsewhere.
We will find them on our streets, at the Bethany Center;
we will find them among our own family and friends,
and they won’t be children, but adults. People who need our care.
Another reason Christmas
may seem a little darker and colder this year
is because of a certain cynicism,
a world-weariness, in our culture.
On top of all the other cares of war and terror,
add bank failures, political failures,
and an economy that is cold and chill as well.
We don’t need any more mouths to feed!
And there is one more bit of chill—a chill on the faith of many.
We all know people who have drifted away;
there is a rising chorus, in the media, in the culture,
that mocks the values of faith and decency—
marriage is anything you want it to be,
all that matters is the choice I get to make!
On this dark night,
with a different darkness at work in our world,
we might wonder about the Light
that the Scriptures boast about.
We might even wonder, we might whisper:
is it true—or is it too good to be true?
I mentioned that baby—the unexpected one—
the one we would care for if some lost soul brought him to us—
but why? why would we care? Why should we care?
The world is dark—who are we to think otherwise?
Because one cold, dark night, an unexpected baby showed up.
The Inn had no room;
the powerful and the important had no room, and took no notice.
CNN and Fox News showed no interest; no one gave him welcome,
except some rough-edged shepherds, working all night.
We care because we believe—we choose—the Light.
We choose the Light who first chose us.
That we long for the Light shows us we were made for it,
and not for darkness.
God did not shrug his shoulders at the darkness,
and neither do we;
he sent a Child, and we receive a Child—
as many as he sends, of every color, shape and size—
because that Child told us, when he grew up,
"whatsoever you do for the least of these…"
To be a Christian is to know his Light—to be changed by it;
and more, to be faithful to the Light,
missed and mocked by so many.
Once a year, our church is all lit up,
and actually, for a little bit,
a little more of the world notices.
"Hmm..those Christians are having their Christmas again."
But it is between those Christmases, the other 51 weeks,
most of the world goes back to its darkness,
but we, who had Light poured into us in baptism;
we who confront the darkness week by week—
that’s when our task is so important!
Week by week, we bear witness;
week by week, we feel the darkness creep in,
and we return to the Light, first given on Christmas,
given again in the sacrament of penance and the Eucharist.
Tonight, our church, and our homes, are splendid with light;
in a few days, we’ll put it all away—and where will the light be?
That’s up to us: will there be room in us, for the light to remain?