Feast Day Reflection by Sister Priscilla Aliu, SNDdeN
I want to begin this reflection with the words of my favourite and timeless Christmas song, “O Holy Night” written by Placide Cappeau and later composed into music by Adolphe Adam in 1847. The first few lines and the chorus of the song carry the essence of Christmas night:
“O holy night the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth,
Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth,
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices! O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.
The nativity of our Lord is indeed a wonder story. That night in particular has remained ever in the history of humankind as the only night where the divine and the human nature of God burst forth into the universe to redeem the “world in sin and error pining.” Why would the world not “fall” on our “knees” and “rejoice” because true joy entered the world on that night when Christ was born? How else holy and divine would that night have been? Even the angels testified to the greatness of that holy night with their celestial voices.
We can draw a few lessons from the gospel of today. First, it talks about St. Joseph going from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be enrolled with Mary who was with a child and it is in this journey that Mary gave birth to Jesus that night. Joseph did not give excuses why he could not make the journey. He embarked on that trip with Mary obediently. He resolutely took on the fatherhood of Jesus with a kind and open heart.
In his recent Apostolic letter, Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as “a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.” We can only imagine what would have happened in Bethlehem that night were St. Joseph not prudent in his decision. His action calls us to examine our attitude towards important and complex matters. Are we quick to dismiss issues, give excuses especially when they don’t fit into our agenda or personal gain? St. Joseph’s attitude challenges us to be courageous and open to a life of sacrifice.
The second lesson from the gospel reading is that when the time came for Mary to give birth to her child there was no room in the inn so she gave birth in a manager. This is the stark contrast to how the world thinks and acts. Ordinarily, no poor person would want to give birth in a manger, how much more the wealthy and famous, that would be absolutely inconceivable. But Mary went quietly to a stable and give birth to the God/Man child and happily wrapped him in swaddling clothes. For Mary, her focus was to follow the path that God was leading her. She was not concerned about show off, prestige, riches and the judgement of others, she was at one with God in the unfolding revelation. In Mary we can learn to be contented with who we are, what we have positively. To learn to be at one with God, be at peace with the ordinary things of life, to learn to be simply and humble in our approach to life and be focused on the real goal.
The last lesson for this reflection is the hope and joy that the Christmas night baby brings to humanity. Just like the shepherds, we all are afraid of so many things. We are afraid of the unknown, of death, of losing a loved one, of new beginnings, of sickness, of rejection, of terrorism and war. We have become people of fear with the covid-19 pandemic. The angels comforted the shepherd struck with fear saying, “Do not be afraid, for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Christmas hope is for all those who may be dreading Christmas this year because of all the losses of their loved ones due to corona virus and other causes. This hope is for all those who suffer from one form of discrimination or the other. This hope is for women and children who suffer from domestic violence and sexual abuse. This hope is for families in war zones and those whose children has been kidnapped by bandits and terrorists as it happened in Kankara in Katsina state in Nigeria recently where 333 students were taken away from a science secondary school for boys.
Luke 2: 1-14
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Gospel of the Lord