Friday, December 25, 2015

In Search of Christmas: He wandered as His mother had in Bethlehem, on a night like this and on the same date so long ago.

One Christmas night, Our Lord, denying Himself the comfort of visiting those households where He knows He is loved, came down into the midst of a modern city to see what sinners were doing.
Christmas! Christmas! Joy was universal.
Everyone was celebrating. Christ encountered a policeman completely engrossed in directing traffic in a busy plaza. Christ stepped up to him and asked, “What does this Christmas holiday mean?”
The policeman eyed Him suspiciously. “Where do you come from?” 
“From Bethlehem.”
“Bethlehem,” Our Lord repeated.
“Oh? Wherever that is. Anyway, don’t you know that Christmas is a holiday for kids? It’s a holiday for everybody. On Christmas, everybody is somebody’s
“What is the origin of this holiday?”
Our Lord asked.
“Look, you ask too many questions.
Can’t you see I’m very busy? If you want to know more, go ask the chief.”
                                    * * *
Christmas! Christmas! Every store glittered with worldly displays. Really, what was behind it?
Christ paused by a restaurant advertising “Christmas Party—$50.00.” Ladies and gentlemen in elegant evening attire were entering the place. He stepped
inside. Tables, covered with white linen and lighted with red and green candles, were arranged in rows. Bottles of champagne, with gilded foil around their necks, nestled in ice-filled silver pails.
A woman, turning around and seeing Our Lord, gestured indignantly at one of the waiters. “What is this?” she asked. “You let panhandlers in here?”
The waiter, a young man of fifteen or so, rushed over to Him. “What are you doing in here?” he demanded. “Begging is permitted only out on the sidewalk!”
Christ studied the young man. “If only you knew what it is that I am ‘begging’ . . . ,” He started to reply, but He was already being shoved out into the street as the woman playing the piano sang, “Peace on earth and mercy mild.” Not even the Roman centurions had been so
Outside, Christ allowed Himself to be swept along by the throng that flowed like a river between the stores and markets.
He saw toys everywhere, a few Santa Clauses, but rarely a crèche.
Our Lord then caught sight of a married couple carrying a few small precious bundles. They seemed to be good,
middle-class, peace-loving souls, hurrying somewhere to celebrate Christmas.
Christ followed them, invisible to their eyes. They entered their home and climbed the staircase to their apartment, where others had already gathered.
He watched as they opened bottles, served pastries, and then as they ate and drank.
“Imagine,” said one, “just for a change of pace, I went to Midnight Mass!”
“Oh?” said another, barely considering the remark. “And how was it?”
“Well, it wasn’t as pleasant as a good concert, but quite amusing nevertheless. Saw a number of friends there.”
The apartment had neither a crucifix nor a crèche. Christ could not long endure the senseless conversation, so
He turned away and slowly descended the staircase.
A short distance down the road, Our Lord found Himself near a large school’s playground. Above the gate a prominent sign proclaimed, “Christmas Party for
the Children of District 10.”
Ah, children, little children! Our Lord went in. There were hundreds of children inside, receiving toys, candy and books.
As they noisily ran and tumbled about, important looking women hurried about under the headmistress’ gaze.
Again, neither a crèche nor a crucifix could be seen, and nobody mentioned the name of the Child Jesus.
As Christ stood there, a feeling of isolation grew in His heart. He was a trespasser.
Finally, He approached a young boy whose arms overflowed with toys.  The boy reminded Him of His little
friends of bygone days in Bethlehem.
“Do you love the Child Jesus who has given you so many nice toys?” Our Lord asked the little boy.
The boy stared at Him with a puzzled air. “Child Jesus?”
“Don’t you know Him?”
The headmistress, as if sensing some danger afoot, rushed over. “What did this man say to you?” she frantically asked the boy.
Upon learning what Our Lord had asked and whose Name He had dared mention, her eyes glared at Our
Lord with annoyance, and she snarled, “Be so kind as to leave at once!”
Christ again walked through the streets, no longer entering any of the places He passed. He wandered as His
mother had in Bethlehem, on a night like this and on the same date so long ago. He roamed through the endless
streets, passing innumerable places where His creatures celebrated Christmas without knowing its true meaning.
He hesitated to return to Heaven with such a heavy heart.
                                        * * *
Weary, He came to the edge of a neglected suburb.  A white building ablaze with tiny lights caught His eye.
Approaching and looking through one of the windows, He saw His own image prominently displayed on the wall. His
eyes brightened, as if reflecting the hundreds of lights outside, when He noticed that in one corner of the room was a simple but attractively arranged crèche.
Just then, the door opened and a boy came out, a boy like those who frequently come under a parish’s care. The boy
stopped abruptly at the sight of the golden-haired man shivering in the darkness.
Icy gusts blew around them.  “Sir, you could freeze out here! You need to get out of the cold.”
“I am quite cold,” answered Our Lord.
“Come in, then. We have a good fire going.”
And so Our Lord entered. Near the fireplace, a group of children closely gathered around a young priest.
As the fire crackled and filled the room with its welcoming warmth and light, the priest told the children about the infinite grandeur and glory hidden within the little figure of the Child Jesus in the crèche. He stopped his tale the moment Our Lord entered the room.
“Come in! You look cold!  Please, warm yourself here.”
The children promptly offered the newcomer a place close to the fire. “Have you had anything to eat? Joseph, go ask your mother to prepare something hot for this gentleman.”
Christ’s gaze slowly passed over all of them, one by one, as if He were memorizing every little face.
Above all, He gazed at the young priest. “Are you alone, my friend?” asked the priest kindly.
“Yes.” Seized by soul-stirring curiosity, all eyes turned inquisitively upon the Stranger, waiting.
Christ did not speak. Very slowly, regally, Jesus’ hand moved. He extended it over their heads, reaching beyond the humble cottages of that neglected suburb, and encompassing that immense city whose miseries He had witnessed.
In a tone of voice He exclaimed, “Misereor super turbas!” (“I have pity upon these people!”). Then, slowly, before their astonished eyes, He disappeared.
“It was He!” cried one of the boys. The young priest nodded solemnly.
“Yes, it was.”

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