Other articles by the same author
/Heartside Gallery and Studio
Anthony Harrell above with his 'love is not a dream' (Click to enlarge.)
It really was a poor place to be giving birth -- that dimly lit and chilly cave meant to shelter animals. The parents, Mary and Joseph, were in a strange town, far from home; they had walked for miles. The entire situation was rather irregular from the start. It really wasn't a good situation and not a story for children. In fact as Barbara Fiand, SSND in her book From Religion Back to Faith: A Journey of the Heart, says: "Christmas . . . is really for grown-ups . . . ."
Fiand reminds us that the welcoming committee for this child of light was the lowliest of peoples - shepherds and later foreigners from the East. With this beginning, it is no wonder that Jesus grew up to prefer the company of the poor and the isolated. From this first story through his choice of fishermen, women and the despised to his last human interaction with a thief on the cross, Jesus seemed to prefer the company of the humble, the lowly, the unpretentious. I ask myself why this is so. After all, he didn't go to Sunday school or religious education classes to learn that he should be nice to the poor and needy.
He just seemed to prefer them. It is unlikely that Jesus preferred the poor and the outcast because he preferred poverty and alienation. But it just might be that Jesus preferred people who were poor and outcast because they are usually entirely lacking in pretension. Suffering has a way of peeling away pretenses. Fear and pain leave little room to maintain a facade; it may in fact open a path to humility and authenticity. And people who are true to themselves do make very good company.
Where then does that leave those who are not really poor -- who have more than enough to eat, who have shelter and a fair amount of financial security? Is there room for them in the heart of Jesus? Of course there is! It is the person who is authentic, who is unadorned that finds a place in Jesus' heart. Jesus does not seek out those who are sophisticated, successful, in charge, or known as the ones who "have it all together." On the contrary, there seems to be a preferential option for those who are none of the above and who admit it to themselves and to God.
So it seems Jesus prefers the company of those who come with nothing but a holy longing; who come to receive, not to bargain; who bring wonder rather than a "know it all" attitude. And so, of course children fit in this group for they come into this world dependent and needy; their early years are filled with awe and wonder at everything they experience for the first time. Only gradually, over many years, do we grow up and learn how to put on a mask - to impress. Later, when time smoothes the rough edges of our soul, we may find again that there is a humble shepherd inside of us.
As we face our own fear and pain, we shed the pretense. We might become brave enough to pull down the facade, to risk being our true selves with our companions and with our God. We may find again that younger self who is delighted by the first snowfall, who is not afraid to cry out in hunger and fear. And so it is that Christmas is for grown-ups who can find their true selves and bring that self to prayer. And of course Christmas is for children too -- in whose eyes we see our younger selves and smile in that good company.
submitted by - Rosemary Steers, Communications Specialist
The mission of Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids, in both our personal and professional ministries, is to live the Gospel. This includes empowering people spiritually, intellectually, socially, materially, and by promoting justice through prayer, study and service - emboldened by faith, serving with joy.