A Merry Christmas!
“Oh, holy night! The stars are brightly shining…” It’s so easy for me, and I think others, too, to forget in the day to day just how loved we are by God. I don’t just mean “love” the way that I was supposed to love my sister (sorry Carol or Catherine!), but God loves us in a crazy way. Maybe the best glimpse we get is that of two young lovers. But even that doesn’t compare to the strength, the passion, the vulnerability of God.
This holy night, we’re invited to re-involve our senses, our hearts, our will. Francis wanted us to get right in the middle of things with the Holy Family. That’s why he set it up in Greccio so that we might smell the straw with animal urine, marvel at the Shepherds who have to bring their work with them, get close to Mary, worn out by the journey, covered with sweat, near collapsed after birthing a baby. St. Francis Seraph in Cincinnati has such a live Nativity scene in one of the courtyards, if you’d like a more physical place to be involved in this meditation.
Let’s look down into that crib, and see the bands wound around this helpless baby. Max Lucado says, “He went from holding stars to clutching Mary’s little finger”. Here, God became human – for our love. What a crazy, passionate love. That when he appeared – our soul felt its worth! We are the ones for whom God went to any lengths to win our love. Only love can change us.
Tonight, look down into a crib or up on a cross and get caught off guard all over again by God’s self-giving. If you do, you’ll want to give away what you’ve been given. You’ll look out for refugees and immigrants that look familiarly like the Holy Family. You’ll notice the brother that gets overlooked. You could get drawn to a nearby soup kitchen or volunteer for Jamaica or Detroit. Who knows?
–Mark Soehner, OFM
Fr. Murray Bodo relates the story of St. Francis and Christmas in Greccio in this video by Franciscan Media.
And Br. Gabriel Balassone sings ‘O Holy Night’ in the video below.