By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI
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In two days’ time, on December 25, we will welcome the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Take time to prepare yourself for the greatest gift that God gave to humankind—His only Son. And while you decorate your Christmas tree at home, don’t forget to include a crèche—to remind yourself/family/visitors of the reason for the season.
Have you seen images of the amazing 52-foot-wide Nativity scene— a bas-relief sculpture—made entirely of 720 tons of golden sand from the Dolomites by Rich Varano and three other sculptors on display in St Peter’s Square?
The sculpture measures about 5.5 metres high by 16 metres wide (18 feet high by 52 feet wide). It was unveiled and a 65-foot-tall red spruce tree was lit during a ceremony on December 7.
Pope Francis’ words to the delegations from groups that had created the sand sculpture and donated the tree are worth noting. He said: “The tree and the crib are two signs that never cease to fascinate us; they tell us about Christmas and help us to contemplate the mystery of God made man to be close to each one of us. The Christmas tree with its lights reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world; it is the light of the soul that drives away the darkness of enmities and makes room for forgiveness.”
The tree “symbolises God that with the birth of his Son Jesus has lowered himself down to man in order to raise man to himself from the fogs of selfishness and sin”.
He said that sand is a poor material that “recalls the simplicity, smallness, and frailty with which God revealed himself with the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem. The child Jesus, Son of God and our Saviour, whom we place in the manger, is holy in poverty, smallness, simplicity, and humility.”
The Pope expressed his wish that the manger and the Christmas tree help families reflect on the luminosity and tenderness of God and “help everyone to live the feast of the birth of Jesus. Contemplating the Child God who emanates light in the humility of the nativity scene, we can also become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness.”
As we reflect on the fact that there was no room at the inn for Mary to give birth to her baby, Jesus, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open the doors of our hearts and fill us with “goodness” to do as Pope Francis says, and “embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf Mt 25:35–36).
Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of His hospitality.”
“Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake
us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognise our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.”
Let us take up the challenge to be agents of hospitality, hope and tenderness. See Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris’ Pastoral Letter on Hospitality for some excellent ideas about how we can LIVE the value/virtue of hospitality: https://catholictt.org/quo_storage/2017/03/returntohospitality.pdf.
Here is an extract: “Confronted with migration, vagrancy, social failure of many kinds, how are we called to practise hospitality in the face of the particular demands of our times? What is our response and responsibility to the CARICOM nationals, the Venezuelans, and persons of other nationalities who appear in our neighbourhood? Are we silent in the face of their exploitation…do we at the very least offer them the solace of a gesture of compassion? Do we offer a share of the fruits of our land, a word in their language, signs that we acknowledge our shared humanity?”