Some short weeks back, I had been so bogged down by my studies. It hurt me that after all these years fighting to keep my professional work out of Advent, it was now the stress and worry over my own studies that was encroaching upon this time of silence and watching. I was exhausted, I looked like a ghoul from severe lack of sleep and I could barely think of baking or cooking for Christmas. But thanks to the fervent prayers of my loved ones and dearest friends here, there were 2 miracles and I was freed from the worst of it. Overwhelmed by relief, I wanted more good to come out of this early Christmas gift of freedom. In this relief, a tiny memory tapped at my heart. It was about a Mexican legend I had read about 3 years before, about the miracle of poinsettias.
…a very poor child, Pepita, who wistfully longed to lay a gift at Baby Jesus’ crib at her church during Christmas Eve service. Some accounts say that it was her angel who then told her to pick some weeds from the roadside and present them to the Child King. When the little girl hesitated, the angel encouraged her, telling her that, Even the smallest gift from a heart that loves would make Jesus happy.
In obedience, yet, still embarrassed, Pepita made a little bouquet of the weeds which she took into church later that night, shyly laying it at the bottom of the nativity scene.
Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds no eye would heed burst into bright red flowers known today as poinsettias. It was a miracle seen by all present. The common and the ordinary was transformed into something of luminous beauty by pure, simple love. In that miracle, everyone at that time and over the centuries, saw the kiss of heaven on a little urchin’s gift from the heart that sought nothing but to love her Saviour.
It dawned on me that unless I did something more with my days, I was going to arrive at Jesus’ Crib filled with my own needs and concerns, and yet be empty handed. So, I turned to God to ask Him what He wanted of me this Christmas. Slowly, I became aware of a tapping against my window,
Christmas of the Poor
Honestly, after such a difficult year, all I wanted was a miraculous burst of huge good news come Christmas, and end to all the severe crosses we have borne so far. I wanted to rise above my exhaustion and frozen spirit and revel in last minute Christmas shopping, make up Christmas menus and think about Christmas trips and visits. Instead, it was
Christmas of the Poor
laid down quietly and ever so gently, by the door of my heart.
While I didn’t groan in disappointment, my spirits did droop. How long more, Lord? I asked. How long more must we endure? Is 14 years, and the last 4 months of sheer agony not enough for You? In answer, once again came the quiet,
Christmas of the Poor
Thankfully, one of the blessings of being more grateful and thankful for everything in life is a heart that cannot lie upon the rug of whine for too long. I soon took myself in hand and joined the crowds of others long busy in trying to help other folks have a better Christmas.
I figured I’d offer one Divine Mercy chaplet a day and the night’s family Rosary for a person in need. The first 2 came quickly enough, but after that, there seemed to be no specific name. So, on the 3rd day, I offered the chaplet for the Holy Souls of Purgatory. Then, came the 4th day but still no name. Do You not want me to pray, Lord? I asked, puzzled. In answer, the Angel opened my eyes. I learned of 2 people almost drowning in despair. And in a quick moment, I was moved to join the others already gathered there, to reach in and do what I could to help.
And just like that, something shifted on the home front. Where I was once so tuckered out and listless, I found myself baking again. To the daily cooking and cleaning, a freshened vigour came. Even with my studies, I found myself calmly chipping away at the work that needed to get done.
Today is a green and silver day, rendered by soft December rains. It is a day that lends itself to quiet thoughts and a listening heart. Into this velvet softness, a gentle hand tucks into my heart once more,
Christmas of the Poor
We are all poor, whether we realise it or not. Even in our richness and perceived wealth, there will be fields of poverty somewhere in our lives. This we sometimes see, often not. But I think the angels take these poverties of ours and lay them by the doors of other hearts, even as they bring to us the poor of the world.
And when we sense the light rise upon our own hearts, it is because someone was moved by our poverty to share their light with us. It is because someone didn’t choose to look away or didn’t get too busy.
It is because someone out there was poor enough to see our poverty, moved to share what little they had of their own light with us.
There is a temptation to write off and stuff this old year into an invisible drawer never to be opened again. But I cannot yield to it, for despite the darkness and the stress endured, there has been much beauty in this mottled, troubled year.
There is no way I can turn my heart away from His gifts to us because God gave us so much. So very much. He softened the difficulty of studying and working online from home through the consolation of good health and of our jobs being intact at a time when so many lost their livelihoods, when so many fell ill and too many did not return to life. Yes, like so many, we struggled to make adjustments to stay home orders and to unfair and poorly thought out government directives. But He buoyed us on with hope through happy news concerning our children. At the end of each day, we stumbled away from our laptops and phones, mentally drained from work, upset and frustrated with our employers, little wine left in our barrels.
And God changed water into wine through the miraculous renewal of our family life. He taught us how to lock our gates against trespassers and instead, to turn the gaze of our hearts towards the gem of family, of time spent together.
God gifted us with laughter. Precious laughter.
This year, for every day of anger and hurt, there were ten times more of mirth and joy.
Then, the sky of Advent dawned quietly in the frenzied churn of life. For years, the road to Christmas has been dark for me. Even when the sun began to slowly pierce the winter, the cold and dark hovered too close by. Even as I built fires for everyone else, my own hearth remained unlit.
The light would not come.
Year after year, I would ache in hidden disappointment that God had passed me by yet again, my outstretched heart left empty, my seeking bereft.
This year, not wanting to hope for a miracle (yet going ahead and hoping all the same), I took to heart the words of my friend, Linda Raha, – Make every day Christmas. I decided then and there that my Christmas would be that.
That the Light of Christmas in my hearth would be the Light of Christmas let in for others.
That I would stand by the windows of other hearts and rejoice as the sacred Light of a newborn Babe warmed and healed those spaces. That even when I had to return to my own empty and wind-chilled heart, it would only be to resolutely light and stoke to life fires of thanksgiving and gratitude.
And not forgetting – to gather up more wood to make more Christmas fires for others. Prayers for friends braving so many unsurmountables yet forging forwards in love. Love for those who hate the Jesus they do not know. For those who need Christmas in order to love. For poor muslim friends hiding their poverty behind brave smiles. For the old and the sick in our family, separated from loves by Covid.
That would be my Christmas and that would suffice, I schooled my heart firmly.
Heaven must have smothered a smile at my efforts, and angels surely clapped back their mirth. For they knew what I did not.
On Christmas Day, Heaven spilled Light into my heart.
Not bright, joy-giddy Light, but a different Light. Many Lights. Gentle and playful Lights, little lamps loved and released yet cherished in secret. Lights wan yet so sweet, passed through hearts gone before us. Lights lit from love old and worn from waiting, yet firmly steadfast in the quiet of Hope Eternal.
Today, as the winds blow their last notes among plump, white clouds and sun-drenched swaying boughs, my heart traces the whorls and lines of the old year once more.
It is then that I see something. Strangely, today, none of the old anguish, those dark sentinels which have jealously guarded bitter memories, charge towards me. They are gone. Even as the memory of difficult days remain, the stain of pain is no more.
Pondering this, I recall the words of my pastor in his Christmas Vigil sermon, his heartfelt exhortation to each one of us to pray for a miracle at the Crib of the Wee Child. Taking his words to heart, I had obeyed promptly that night. In spirit at the Crib’s edge, my plea had been direct,
And a miracle it was!
Through the power of the Crib, the old shadows have gone, mysteriously brushed away from my spirit’s sight.
The night grows old now, the last rains of the year fall in final benediction. Poised for flight into the new year, one last look at all that was,
Farewell!–we leave thee to Heaven’s peaceful care…
This Christmas, my prayer for each one of you, my dearest friends, is for a miracle.
That you feel the tinkle of silver bells in your spirit all the hours of Christmas and beyond.