Christmas 2018

Fr Jude Botelho:

Dear Friend,

Christmas is here and we are called to celebrate. Have we prepared ourselves for His coming?  Whether we are ready or not, He is ready and willing to come to us if only we let him into our hearts. He is in our midst; His name is Emmanuel, God with us!

May his word open our eyes, May his Spirit open our hearts! Have a holy and happy Christmas!

Today’s first reading from Isaiah reminds us that Christmas is a feast of light. No doubt it is we who have caused the darkness in our lives, our sins, our indifference and lack of love towards our brothers and sisters have cast a shadow on our lives. The way God scatters the darkness is by letting ‘a child be born for us, a son given to us.’ God reveals himself not through power but through a small frail weak child. Night time is usually a time of fear and evil, but this night is different. It is a Silent night, a Holy night, a night made divine by the presence of God in our midst. May this night be filled with the light of love given and love received, reflecting in our own lives the love of God, who entered our history with the birth of his son Jesus Christ.

Nancy’s Christmas Dinner

We were the only family with children in the restaurant that Christmas day. I sat Erik in a high chair and suddenly Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man with a tattered coat, greasy and worn.  His pants were baggy, his shirt dirty, his hair uncombed.  "Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy," the man said to Erik. Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi, hi there." Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.  Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, "Do ya know patty cake? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo." My husband and I were embarrassed.  We ate in silence; all except for Erik. We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to side-step him. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's pick-me-up position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Erik in an act of total trust, laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, gently cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain and said, "God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift." With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me." I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not, I felt it was God asking - "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?", when He shared His for All Eternity.


In today’s gospel Luke begins the most sublime story of God’s entry into the world by linking it with a human story. The story begins with the names of the greatest figures of that time, Emperor Augustus and Governor Quirinius, side by side with two very simple people Joseph and Mary setting out for an insignificant town in Palestine, Bethlehem, in obedience to the decree requiring them to register in their hometown. Mary and Joseph make themselves available for God’s coming into the world through their act of obedience though it inconveniences them. So often God’s time is not our time and so we miss his coming. The story of Christ’s birth started with the high and mighty but the children of Israel who are invited to come to the manger are simple shepherds who are summoned from their flocks. The shepherds listen and believe and set out to see for themselves the wonderful event that has taken place. Their faith helps them to believe and journey to the manger. Everyone’s life is a journey of faith. We have to believe and journey in faith to discover him. Today’s message of the birth of Jesus brings about a reversal of the value system of the world. The great people mentioned at the beginning in today’s gospel, Caesar Augustus and Quirinius do not know of the birth of Jesus but simple shepherds in the fields hear the good news. God who created this world does not find a home in it. Mary and Joseph have to leave home and find a place in a stable so that God Emmanuel might be at home with us. Jesus becomes one like us so that we might become like God.

Emmanuel’s Discovery

Once upon a time there was an African boy named Emmanuel. He was always asking questions. One day he asked his teacher, “What language does God speak?” His teacher scratched his head and said, “I really don’t know.”  So Emmanuel asked the learned people of his village, but they didn’t know either. Now he became really curious. He travelled around his country and asked the learned people of other villages, “What language does God speak?” but they merely shook their heads. Emmanuel was convinced that someone knew. So he began to travel to other countries. He even travelled to other continents. But the answer was always the same. One night, exhausted by his travels, Emmanuel came to a village called Bethlehem. He tried to a get a room in one of the inns, but the rooms were all filled up. So he decided to look for a cave outside town. In the early hours of the morning, he finally found one. When he stepped inside the cave, however, he saw it was occupied by a couple and a child. When the young mother saw him, she said, “Welcome, Emmanuel, we’ve been expecting you.” The boy was stunned. How did the woman know his name? He was even more amazed when she said: “For a long time you have been searching the world over to discover what language God speaks. Now your journey is over. Tonight you see with your own eyes what language God speaks. He speaks the language of love.

Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

A Saviour born to us

The Russians have for centuries told a legend about a young medieval prince, Alexis, who lived in a sumptuous palace, while all around, in filthy hovels, lived hundreds of poor peasants. The Prince was moved with compassion and determined to better their lot. So he began to visit them. But as he moved in and out among them he found that they treated him with enormous respect; but he was never able to win their confidences, and he returned to the palace a disappointed man. Then one day a very different man came among the people, a rough and ready young doctor who wanted to devote his life to serving the poor. He started by renting a filthy rat-ridden shack in one of the back streets. His clothes were old and tattered and he lived simply, often without knowing where the next meal was coming from. He made no money from his profession because he treated most people free and gave away his medicines. Before long this young doctor had won the respect and affection of all those people, as Prince Alexis had never succeeded in doing. And little by little he transformed the whole spirit of the place, settling quarrels, and helping people to live decent lives. No one ever guessed that this young doctor was in fact the Prince himself, who had abandoned his palace and become one of them. -That’s just what God did on that first Christmas day. He came down to help us to become the sort of beings he intended us to be.

John Williams in ‘More Quotes and Anecdotes’

What can I give him?

Living in any city, you are likely to be bombarded with posters of Santa Claus in supermarkets and the blasting of ‘Jingle Bells’ from Christian residences.  For a moment, at least, could we substitute the Christ child for Santa and silently reflect on the first Christmas night? -Poetess Christina Rossetti wrote: “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d bring Him a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what can I give, give Him my heart!” Heart-gifted, we’ll be able to sing ‘a new song to the Lord’ mentioned in the psalm as collaborators of Christ’s cause. Have a hearty Christmas!

Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

The gift that is given for us

Luke’s invitation, which has been extended to all believers down the centuries, reaches us again tonight: to come and worship, to see for ourselves the fragility of God, the littleness of the mighty one, the sheer tenderness of a love that is offered to all peoples. With the birth of this child a new adventure in faith begins. A new approach to God is opened up for us, a new way of relating to each other is asked of us. Because this child becomes for all of us the Way, the Truth and the Life. That is why we make the journey back to Bethlehem each year: to rediscover our own roots in the gift of Jesus. For us, it is a journey home. As G.K. Chesterton wrote: ‘To an open house in the evening, Home shall men come, To an older place than Eden, And a taller town than Rome. To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless, And all men are at home.

Denis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Word’

The House of the Dead – Christmas dawn in a Siberian campIt was a dingy little settlement among frozen wastelands. From the grim prison at one end of a single muddy street the convicts peered through barred windows at the small cathedral on a hill at the other side of town. The bells rang merrily as that Christmas dawn arrived and the villagers trooped in happy procession to the early church service. It was Christ’s mass, Christmas. “But not for us, who are cut off from all humanity,” the ragged prisoners wept, huddled together for comfort from the cold. Finally, however, when the long cathedral service was ended, a priest came to the prison, set up a crude altar, and began the service of worship. “Now God has come to us!” the convicts shouted in surprised joy. “Oh yes,” replied the priest. “This is where he lives all year long. You see, he goes to the cathedral only on special occasions.”

Dostoyevsky in ‘The House of the Dead’

May we discover Emmanuel –God with us - in our hearts, in our homes!!

 It was a cold December afternoon. Rain mixed with snow splashed against the windshield. Overhead dark clouds hovered seemingly just above the treetops. All day long two men, a pastor named Jerry and a layman named Jim, had been delivering Christmas boxes. Many of the families who would receive these boxes would get nothing else for Christmas that year. The pickup truck had been loaded when the two men started out on their journey but now, only one box remained. It was covered with an old piece of tarp to protect it against the rain. 

The address on the card meant a drive of several miles beyond the city limit. "What do you think?" Jim asked. He was the driver and it was his truck. Pastor Jerry knew what Jim was thinking. Why drive way out in the country when we could give this last box to someone close by and be home in thirty minutes? It was a tempting thought. Pastor Jerry had a Christmas Eve Communion Service scheduled for 8 p.m. and he could use the time to prepare.  

Jim, however, answered his own question, "Well, let's give it a try. If we can't find the place, we can always come back and give the box to someone else." 

The rain was pouring down by the time they reached the address on the card. The old white framed house stood on a hillside overlooking the valley. It had once been an elegant place, the centerpiece of a large farm. Now, the farm was gone and the house had deteriorated over the years... 
 The House of Bread 

In the Hebrew, Bethlehem means the house of bread. What a wonderful poetic description of a dwelling place. I remember frequently coming home from school and smelling the aroma of baking bread, creating for our entire family a house of bread. It awakens memories of good food, a warm kitchen, conversation, fulfillment. Everyone who entered the house gravitated towards the kitchen for a piece of bread with melting butter and to enjoy that delicacy in the company of others.

At Bethlehem, at this house of bread, humanity is irresistibly drawn to share in the good news of God. All things converge there and our souls find their birth and their nourishment. The entire universe holds its breath in wonder for it is here and nowhere else that we know our names, and find our homes. 

Susan Hedahl, Places of the Promise, CSS Publishing Inc.
 God Is Interested in Our Life 

Jim Moore recently served as senior minister of St. Luke's in Houston, Texas. At a breakfast with a friend, who is now a sales representative for a large national company, the friend told Dr. Moore about a recent exchange with his new sales manager. 

It seems Moore's friend was driving his new boss around town when they happened to pass near the friend's home. This friend asked the new sales manager if he would like to stop by his house and meet his family. His wife was baking an apple pie, and his children would be coming in from school. Would he like to meet them? 

"Let's get one thing straight right now," the manager replied. "I'm not interested in your family. I'm not interested in your wife or your children. I'm not interested in you personally at all or any of the circumstances of your life. All I'm interested in are results. All I'm interested in about you is your sales record!" 

The friend told Moore: "That really hurt. I felt as though someone had slapped me across the face, but you know, I realized something. I realized that God is the opposite of that! God is interested in my home and family. God is interested in my wife and children. God does care about me personally. He is interested in all of the circumstances of my life." 

That is the good news of Christmas.

James W. Moore, Christmas Gifts That Always Fit 
 The New Age 

Every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there is displayed, beneath the great Christmas tree, a beautiful eighteenth century Neapolitan nativity scene. In many ways it is a very familiar scene. The usual characters are all there: shepherds roused from sleep by the voices of angels; the exotic wise men from the East seeking, as Auden once put it, "how to be human now"; Joseph; Mary; the babe -- all are there, each figure an artistic marvel of wood, clay, and paint. There is, however, something surprising about this scene, something unexpected here, easily missed by the casual observer. What is strange here is that the stable, and the shepherds, and the cradle are set, not in the expected small town of Bethlehem, but among the ruins of mighty Roman columns. The fragile manger is surrounded by broken and decaying columns. The artists knew the meaning of this event: The gospel, the birth of God's new age, was also the death of the old world.

Herods know in their souls what we perhaps have passed over too lightly: God's presence in the world means finally the end of their own power. They seek not to preserve the birth of God's new age, but to crush it. For Herod, the gospel is news too bad to be endured, for Mary, Joseph, and all the other characters it is news too good to miss.

Adapted from Thomas G. Long, Something Is About To Happen, CSS Publishing
 I think the Grinch said it best: 

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?"
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!"
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas. . . perhaps. . means a little bit more!"

Dr. Suess
The Christian Gospel in a Nutshell 

In Kurt Vonnegut's book, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Eliot Rosewater, an eccentric do-gooder, was discussing with his wife the birth of twins to a half-witted townsperson named Mary Moody. "I'm baptizing them tomorrow," he says. "I didn't know you -- you did things like that," Sylvia replied. "I couldn't get out of it," said Eliot. "She insisted on it, and nobody else would do it. I told her I wasn't a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. I told her nothing I could do would count in heaven. But she insisted just the same." 

"What will you say?" inquired Sylvia. "Oh -- I don't know. I'll go over to her shack, I guess, sprinkle some water on the babies and say, 'Hello babies. Welcome to the earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It is round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of babies: Darn it, you've got to be kind.' "

Maybe that's the Christian gospel in a nutshell. God has been very kind to us, and to live in God's sight means we must be very kind to each other. If that is not the end of the Christian faith, it may be the beginning.

Charles H. Bayer, When It Is Dark Enough, CSS Publishing Company

Humor: Hanging Lights for Christmas 

Hanging lights on a Christmas tree can be most stressful. Some nice person on the Internet has even made a list of Things Not to Say When Hanging Lights on the Christmas Tree. Let me read some of them:
8. "Up a little higher. You can reach it. Go on, try."
7. "What on earth do you do to these lights when you put them away every year? Tie them in knots?"
6. "You've got the whole thing on the tree upside-down. The electric plug thing should be down here at the bottom, not up at the top."
5. "I don't care if you have found another two strings, I'm done!"
4. "You've just wound 'em around and around--I thought we agreed it shouldn't look like a spiral this year?"
3. "Have you been drinking?"
2. "Where's the cat?" 
1. And the number one thing not to say when hanging lights on a tree? "If you're not going to do it right, don't do it at all. Don't just throw them on, like you do the icicles. You're worse than your father."
It's not easy getting ready for Christmas. Luke, in his narrative concerning the coming of Christ quotes the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" (NRSV)
King Duncan, Collected Sermons,  

 The Inner Galaxy
The story is told of Teddy Roosevelt entertaining guests at his Sagamore Hill estate on Long Island. After a late dinner he invited his guests outside to walk beneath the brilliant nighttime sky. After a silent, reverent stroll Roosevelt said, "I guess we've been humbled enough now. Let's go inside." And that's what Christmas Eve is all about -- about stargazing toward the infinite to be humble in our finiteness. So in response to the angel chorus and the angel announcement, the simple, rustic, stargazing shepherds said, "Let us go even now into Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened...." And they went inside the stable, and beheld in the manger the inner galaxy -- the interior meaning of the universe. And what did they experience?
For one thing, they experienced mystery. Luke tells us they returned "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen...."

 Abnormal birth: After explaining childbirth the biology teacher asked her 4th graders to write an essay on "childbirth" in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research she asked grandma how her parents got her. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought me and my mother found me in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how her parents got her as a baby. “My mother picked me from a box found in the gooseberry bush”, said the surprised great-grandma. With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, "I really wonder why there was not even a single natural birth in our family for four generations..." (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth never before seen or experienced because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.

 Additional Anecdotes

1) "Man, you don't mess around when you're hungry!" Have you heard about the little boy who loved going to church? He enjoyed the music, the stained glass windows, the homily and the fellowship. The only part about going to church that the little boy didn't like, were those long personal prayers which the pastor added to the intercessory prayers! Then on Christmas, the little boy's parents invited the pastor home for lunch... and would you believe it, his mom asked the minister to pray the prayer of thanksgiving before the meal. "Oh, no," thought the little boy, "We will never get to eat. I am starving and he will pray forever." But to his surprise, the pastor’s prayer was brief and to the point. He said, "Oh Lord, bless this home. Bless this food, and use us in your service, in Jesus name. Amen." The little boy was so astonished by the pastor’s short prayer that he couldn't help himself. He looked at the pastor and blurted out what he was thinking: "Man, you don't mess around when you're hungry!" Well, I don't want to "mess around" on this Christmas morning because I know that whether we realize it or not... we are hungry. We are all hungry for God. We are all hungry for our Savior. We are all hungry for Christmas... because, you see, this is precisely what Christmas is all about. We need a Savior, we are starved for a Savior, and a Savior is given in Jesus. In fact, the name "Jesus" means literally "The Lord is Salvation," or Yahweh Saves, or Savior. Jesus came at Christmas to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He came to save us from our sins.

2) “And all mankind will see God's salvation.” Every year, the former President Bush and his wife Laura used to send out a Christmas card with a Bible verse on it. For Christmas 2001, when the country was still coming to terms with the Sept. 11th attacks, the Bushes decided to choose a verse that conveyed their faith and hope. They picked this verse from the Psalms: "I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (An interview with First Lady Laura Bush by Ellen Levin, Good Housekeeping, Jan. 2002, pp. 105, 130.) That is the promise of Christmas. Isaiah put it like this: "Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" That is the hope that sustains us in good times and bad. We shall see God's salvation. Christ came because the world needed saving.

3) "We'll all be home for Christmas.” Senator John McCain spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam in the 1960s. During that time, he was frequently tortured or held in solitary confinement. He reports that his lowest point came on Christmas Eve 1969. McCain was giving up hope of ever getting out of Vietnam alive. To compound his homesickness, the captors played the song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" over the PA system. Just then, McCain heard tapping on his cell wall. This was the communication code the POWs used to communicate with one another. On the other side of the wall was Ernie Bruce, a Marine who had been imprisoned for four years already. In spite of his dire situation, Bruce was tapping out, "We'll all be home for Christmas. God bless America." These simple words of comfort restored John McCain's hope. ("The tapping on the wall" by Senator John McCain, Ladies' Home Journal, July 2002, pp. 107-111.) The message of Christmas is always one of hope. This world needs saving, but God began that process of salvation two thousand years ago with the birth of a babe in Bethlehem. There's something about Christmas that elevates us. Christmas is about hope of a better world to come.

4) Kierkegaard has a fable of a king who fell in love with a maid. A king fell in love with a poor maid. The king wanted to marry her. When he asked them, "How shall I declare my love?" his counselors answered, "Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal raiments before the maid's humble dwelling, and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours." But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love's truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid's cottage dressed as a servant to confess his love for her. Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. God chose to express His love for us humans by becoming one like us. We are called to obey not God's power, but God's love. God wants not submission to his power, but in return for his love, our own.

5) Camel on the roof of royal palace: The king of Balkh (northern Afghanistan) named Ebrahim ibn Adam was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely and restlessly strove to be wealthy spiritually as well. One night the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: “Who's there?” “A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I've lost my camel.” Perturbed by such stupidity, Ebrahim screamed: “You fool! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?” “You fool!” the voice from the roof answered. “Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?” The story goes on, according to Jesuit theologian Walter G. Burghardt, to tell how these simple words filled the king with such terror that he arose from his sleep to become a most remarkable saint. Every Christmas Jesus asks the same question to each one of us: “Where are you looking for Me? In the majestically adorned and illuminated cathedrals or in the stables of the poor and the needy?” Tonight’s scripture readings tell us where to look for Christ the Savior.

6) “No Room in the Inn” The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One late evening while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box in the dark, and he had some workers to remove it and put it in a common store house. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket that had been carelessly kept in a common store along with useless articles. The original purpose for the memorial had become lost in the details of construction. [Dr. James Dobson, Coming Home, Timeless Wisdom for Families, (Tyndale House: Wheaton, 1998), 122, & “Story of Christless Christmas,” taken from Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, pp. 131-132.] This seemingly unrealistic ancient legend is a painfully relevant parable of the way some people celebrate Christmas today. Sometimes we become so involved in the tasks and details of Christmas that we forget the One we are honoring. Five little words in the Gospel of Luke say it all: "No Room in the Inn.” 

7) The golden rice grains: There is a beautiful poem by the mystic poet of India, Rabindra Nath Tagore, extolling the reward of generous giving. It tells the story of a king who regularly visited his people, passing through the streets in a chariot. One morning as the king was passing by, a beggar woman who planned to ask him for alms, stood on the road side with her begging bowl. As the king approached her, however, he descended from his chariot and stretched out his hand as though he was expecting a gift from the woman. Excited and surprised, the woman put her hand in the cotton bag on her shoulder, took out a pinch of rice, and with trembling hands gave it to the king. The king was well pleased; he smiled at her put her offering in his pocket and gave her back a pinch of grains from his other pocket. When the woman returned to her small hut that evening and examined the grains she had gotten that day, she was surprised to find a few grains of gold in the rice. You can imagine both her surprise and despair when she realized she should have given all her rice grains to the king. We are here to offer our gifts to Child Jesus in the manger as His birthday gift. Let us remember that Jesus does not want our material gifts as much as He wants our own selves, with all our weakness and temptations, our merits and demerits. Let our Christmas gift to him be a heart full of love and a strong and sincere resolution to share it generously with others.

8) “I want somebody who has skin on." Leonard Griffith, the outstanding pastor in Toronto, tells the story of a mother who was putting her little daughter to bed in the midst of a thunderstorm. She told her daughter that she did not need to be frightened, that God was with her and her mother and father were close by in the living room. The girl replied to her mother, "Mommy, but when it thunders this way, I want somebody who has skin on." This simple, homely story, in essence, is the essential truth of our text. The invisible spirit of God did clothe himself in skin, flesh, and blood and came to dwell among us with grace and truth.

9) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is all about Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean banker who hoards all his money, and goes around saying, "Bah! Humbug!" On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. Then he wakes up on Christmas morning, and finds out he's been given a second chance. He buys the biggest turkey for Bob Crachett and Tiny Tim, is reconciled with his family, serves everyone, and loves everyone for the rest of his life. What makes this such a great story is that Scrooge wakes up on Christmas and decides to spend his life consciously loving and serving others, to live every day as if it were Christmas, loving and serving Christ in everyone.

11) “I wish I could be a brother like that”: Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. “Is this your car, Mister?" he asked. Paul nodded. "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you nothing? Boy, I wish..." He hesitated. Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels. "I wish," the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."

Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?" "Oh yes, I'd love that." After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?" Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again.

"Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. "There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. And someday I'm gonna give you one just like it...then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."

Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride. That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: "It is more blessed to give..." [Dan Clark. From Chicken Soup for the Soul, (1992), pp. 25-26.]

12) Erik’s Jesus in rags: A Christmas story: (Erik's Old Man by Nancy Dahlberg. From Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul (1997), pp. 307-309)

It was Sunday, Christmas Day. After the holidays in San Francisco we were driving back home to Los Angeles. We stopped for lunch in King City. The restaurant was nearly empty. We were the only family and ours were the only children. I heard Erik, my one-year-old, squeal with glee. “Hithere,” the two words he always thought were one. “Hithere” and he pounded his fat baby hands- whack, whack, whack – on the metal high chair. His face was alive with excitement, his eyes were wide, gums bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled and giggled. Then I saw the source of his merriment: an old, dirty smelly bum in rags. He spoke to Erik: “Hi there, baby. Hi there, big boy, I see ya, Buster.” My husband and I exchanged a look that was a cross between “What do we do?” and “Poor devil.”

Our meal came, and the banging and the noise continued. Now the old bum was shouting across the room and Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hithere.” Every call was echoed. Nobody thought it was cute. The guy was a drunk and a disturbance. I was embarrassed. My husband, Dennis, was humiliated. Dennis went to pay the check, imploring me to get Erik and meet him in the parking lot. “Lord, just let me get out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” and I bolted for the door. It soon was obvious that both the Lord and Erik had other plans. As I drew closer to the man on my way out, Erik, with his eyes riveted on his new friend, leaned over my arm, reaching up with his in a baby’s "pick-me-up position." In the split-second of balancing my baby, I came eye-to-eye with the old man. Erik was lunging for him, arms spread wide. The bum implored me: “Would you let me hold your baby?” There was no need for me to answer since Erik propelled himself from my arms into those of the bum. Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship.

Erik laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath the lashes. His aged hands, rough and worn from hard labor, gently cradled and stroked my baby. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment. Then he opened his eyes, looked into mine, and said in a firm voice: “You take care of this baby.” And somehow I managed to say “I will." At last the bum handed Erik to me. As I held my arms open to receive my baby, the old man said, “God bless you, Ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.” I said nothing more than a muttered “thanks.” With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly. And why I was saying, “My God, forgive me. Forgive me” 

13) Will you take Christ home with you this Christmas? When a little boy named Davis came to Christmas morning Mass with his parents, he was surprised to find that baby Jesus was not in the Nativity Set. His parents immediately went into the sacristy and asked the pastor who had removed the Baby Jesus. The pastor rushed to the crib only to realize that some miscreants had stolen the Baby from the manger after the Midnight Mass. Later, during the morning Mass, the pastor informed the congregation of the theft and told them that he couldn't understand the motive behind such a callous act. Then, he asked them to see that the Baby Jesus was returned. The manger, however, remained empty.

Later that afternoon, depressed and sad, the pastor was walking through the wintry streets when he saw his neighbor, little Tommy. Shabbily dressed against the cold, Tommy was proudly walking with a new, bright red wagon. The pastor knew how much his parents must have scrimped and saved to buy him the wagon. With a surge of Christmas spirit, the pastor wished Tommy a Merry Christmas and congratulated him on his beautiful Christmas gift. It was then that he noticed that Tommy’s new red wagon wasn't empty. The Baby Jesus stolen from the church lay on a pillow in the wagon. The pastor was disappointed. He told Tommy that stealing was wrong and that the entire parish had been hurt by his action. Wiping from his cheeks the flowing penitential tears, Tommy said, "But, Father, I didn't steal Jesus! It wasn't like that at all. I've been asking Jesus for a red wagon for Christmas for a long time, and, you see, I promised Him when I got it, He'd be the first one I took out for a ride. I kept my promise and now I am on my way to the church to bring Baby Jesus home!” Each Christmas invites us to take Jesus to our home, because the only inn where He cares to find shelter is the inn of our hearts. If, like the pastor in our story, we have misjudged others, we can take Jesus home with us by asking their forgiveness. If someone has hurt us, we can forgive him or her. Let’s make this a Christmas of reconciliation, love, peace and joy. 

14) O. Henry’s story of sacrificial Christmas sharing: “Gift of the Magi”: A brief retelling of this old, but touching story is as follows: It was Christmas Eve, during the days of the Depression of the 1930's. Della and James, a newly married couple, were very poor. They loved each other dearly, but money was hard to come by. In fact, as Christmas approached, they were unhappy because they had no money to buy presents for each other. They had two possessions that they valued deeply: James had a gold watch which had belonged to his father, and Della had long and beautiful brown hair. Della knew that James’ watch had no matching chain--only a worn-out leather strap. A matching chain would be an ideal gift for her husband, but she lacked the money to buy it.

As she stood before the mirror, her eyes fell on her long brown tresses. She was very proud of her beautiful hair, but she knew what she had to do. She faltered a moment, but nothing could stand in the way of love. She hastened to the “hair-dealers,” sold her hair for twenty dollars, and went round shop after shop, hunting for the ideal gift. At last she found it: a matching chain for her husband’s watch. She was very happy and proud of the gift. She knew he would love it, the fruit of her sacrifice.

James came in, beaming with love, proud of the gift he had bought for Della. He knew she would be very happy with the gift. But when he saw her, his face fell. She thought he was angry at what she had done. She tried to console him by saying that her hair would grow fast, and soon it would be as beautiful as before. That is when he gave her his gift. It was an expensive set of combs, with gem-studded rims. She had always wanted them for her hair! She was very happy, but with a tinge of sadness. She knew it would be some time before she could use the precious gift.

Then, with tears in her eyes, she presented him with the gift she had bought. As he looked at the beautiful chain, he said with a sigh: “I guess our gifts will have to wait for some time. The combs were very expensive; I had to sell my watch to buy the combs!” These were the perfect gifts: gifts of sacrificial love. Both James and Della were very happy for, like the Magi, they had discovered LOVE through self-sacrifice.

15) Two babies in the manger? In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. It was nearing Christmas and the missionaries decided to tell them the story of Christmas. It would be the first time these children would hear the story of the birth of Christ. They told the children about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the Baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and the orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. When the story was finished, the missionaries gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that the missionaries had brought with them since no colored paper was available.

Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown discarded by a tourist, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them. It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6 year old boy named Misha. He had finished his manger. When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the

happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the Baby Jesus in the manger.

Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending. He said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me that I could stay with Him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give Him like the shepherds and the magi did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, “If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.” “So I got into the manger and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him – for always.” As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone Who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him - FOR ALWAYS. Today we celebrate the great feast of Jesus the Emmanuel – “God With Us. “

16) Did you see the queen? Remember that nursery rhyme?

"Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?"
"I've been to London to look at the queen."
"Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?"
"A frightened a little mouse, under her chair."
The pussycat went to see the queen, but it saw only a mouse. We have come to Christmas to see Jesus coming to our lives as our Lord and personal Savior. But do we see only the lights, the statues in the manger scene and the poinsettias around the altar? We have come to experience the Light of the world shine on us. But do we see only the darkness of our lives and that of the world? God has communicated His love for us and His desire to be with us through the Babe in the manger. Do we get the Message?

17) A Christmas Parable written by Louis Cassels: “Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction - except into the warm lighted barn. “They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .” Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.” (Quoted by Fr. Tommy Lane)

18) God has revealed Himself in his Son." Theologian Karl Barth stood before students and faculty at Princeton in 1963 during his Princeton Lectures. A student asked: "Sir, don't you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only Christianity?" Barth stunned many who were present when he thundered, "No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son." 

19) Shuttle service to heaven: The brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis, wrote a thought-provoking book called The Great Divorce. It is not about the divorce that occurs between husband and wife. It is about the divorce that occurs between our souls and God. In this book, C. S. Lewis gives us a picture of Hell as a big city, with all its pressures and problems. In this big city, the weather is always cold and wet with a heavy rain. The light is always grey and murky. The people in this city of Hell become more and more aware of the great divorce that has taken place between their soul and God, and they sink deeper and deeper into their dismal surroundings. Except ... there is a way out! There is a way out of this terrible condition! God has provided a shuttle-bus service from Hell to Heaven: regular bus service. All you need to do is get on the bus and let the power of God carry you into the light. The incredible thing about the story is that very few people get on board the buses, even though they are arriving and departing all the time. The people find all kinds of excuses for putting the journey off to some vague future time -- and they miss the opportunity to be carried by the power of God from death to new life; from the misery of being estranged from God to the joy of being in union with God. Though we may stand in the darkness of the "great divorce," the Christmas Promise of God is that He will carry us into the light if only we are willing to get on the bus.

20) Jesus sells: One never tires of Jesus as a subject. The cover stories of Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report regularly mark His nativity. One reason for featuring Him so often is that their circulation invariably increases. Born twenty centuries ago, Jesus still sells. Mel Gibson broke all records with his DVD of The Passion of the Christ. He sold nine million copies in three weeks at $22 a clip. The first book published by Pope Benedict XVI is called "Jesus of Nazareth." It quickly found a home on the Best Seller list of The New York Times. Artists at their easels struggle to paint His portrait again. Have you seen Andy Warhol's Nativity? Composers struggle to salute Him with a fresh musical score. Will it ever be otherwise? I believe not. Tell others of Jesus. But firstly allow Him to be born in you. He can't be born again, but we can. (Fr. James Gilhooley)

22) “But I did show up”: A story is told of an old woman who lived all alone. Each year as Christmas drew near she would sigh and lament her loneliness, wishing that some people would visit her. Since nobody would visit her, she decided to pray to the baby Jesus and his mother requesting that they pay her a visit. Finally the baby Jesus appeared to her in a dream and told her that her prayer had been heard and that the Holy Family would visit her on Christmas day. Oh, how excited she was! She began cleaning and polishing everything in her house squeaky clean in preparation for the divine visitor. She cooked her best dish and baked her best cake in readiness for the visit of Jesus and his mother. Who knows, maybe if she pleased them well enough, they might decide to stay on and live with her!
When Christmas day finally arrived her house was squeaky clean. Everything was in place to give her divine guests a befitting welcome. She sat by the door and read a book, just to make sure the visitors would not have to ring the door bell twice before she would open the door and let them in. It was a cold and rainy day. At about noon she spotted a gypsy couple in the rain making their way to her house. The man was dirty and disheveled. The thinly-clad woman was nursing a baby who was crying in the rain. “Why can’t these gypsies just get a decent job,” she said to herself. Then she screamed at them, “Turn back, turn back immediately. Come another day if you like. Today, I am expecting very important visitors.” The gypsy family turned back and left. The woman continued to wait. She waited all day and no divine visitors showed up. At sunset she fell asleep on the chair and there in her dream was Jesus. “Jesus,” she screamed, “how could you disappoint me? You said you were coming to visit me for Christmas and I waited all day and you never showed up.” “But I did show up,” replied Jesus. I came with My father and mother in the rain and you turned us away.”

23) “Your God Is Too Small.” JB Phillips authored a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. One of the great reasons for Advent is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and explore the BIGNESS of our GREAT God. The irony of Christmas is this: the bigness of God can be seen in a tiny baby. According to Paul in Colossians 1:15-23 this tiny baby is the dynamic, omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe!

it happened during the carol service. A young lad dressed like a Santa Claus and accompanied us. When the carols are sung he would dance and entertain the household and finally would distribute sweets to all. It so happened that in a house he was dancing very well. A little child who was looking at the Santa Claus was smiling and trying to imitate the steps. When we were about to leave the Santa Claus asked for a glass of water. The mother of the house extended a glass. The boy removed his Santa mask to drink water. As soon as he removed the mask, the little child, who was smiling and dancing started crying and went to hide behind its mother. The mask made him laugh. The unmasking made him cry. It happens in our relationships too. People tend to like us or we tend to like them not for what they are but for the masks they were. The humble birth of Jesus brings to us the face of God. In Jesus there was no mask. That is why people were afraid to take him in – in their inn and in their hearts.

If I were to summarize the Christmas I will say, ‘today God imprinted his footsteps amidst our midst’. 

It was a snow Evening in Ireland. In a countryside a mistress of the house who was sipping her hot evening tea heard her calling bell rung. She looked through the peephole and there seemed to have nobody. She returned to her tea. Again she heard the door bell. She opened to see who was there. No one was there. She came out to see whether anybody was playing around. She saw a little boy and a little girl leaning against the wall. Looking at them she could sense that they were very poor. She asked them, ‘what do you want?’ The little boy said, ‘we want some old newspapers’. The lady asked, ‘why?’ The boy replied, ‘it is very cold and snowing. If we have newspapers we would put inside our dresses and shoes and we would warm ourselves’. The lady took them in and made them sit in the sofa. What the boy said was true that the newspaper that the boy had in his slippers already was wet and yielding. The lady brought for them tea. Taking the tea in his little hands, the boy asked the lady, ‘Madam, are you rich?’ The lady was wonder-struck, ‘Why? Why are you asking that?’ The boy replied, ‘the cup and the saucer are in the same color. My mother used to tell me that only in the houses of the rich people it will be so’. The lady was moved by the reply. She rushed to bring them some dresses and shoes of her own children. After sending the little boy and the little girl out the lady came to the sofa where they were sitting. She took the cup and saucer in hand and observed for the first time that they were of the same color. She thought how she failed to realize her own richness. More often than not she was grumbling over what was lacking in her. And she never seemed to have realized the true worth of her. Under the sofa she saw the wet footprints of that little boy and girl. She preserved those wet newspaper footprints that made her realize how rich she was.

The footprints of a little baby 2000 years ago in Bethlehem remind us this too, ‘how rich we are!’ Saint Paul writes to the Corinthian Church, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The footprints of Jesus assure us of his rootedness in our human realities. To the people who walked in darkness and did not know to find the way Isaiah proclaimed the feet of the Lord who would guide them. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7). Not only at the birth but also at his life and ministry Jesus was leaving the footprints. ‘A woman caught in adultery falls on his feet’ (Lk 7:38). Looking at the abundance of fish the disciples fall on his feet (Mk 5:22). John the Baptist tells that he is not worthy to touch the sandals of Jesus (Jn 1:27). The leader of the synagogue falls on Jesus and pleads for a miracle (Mk 5:33). Zachariah in his song praises God telling that, ‘a dawn comes from heaven’ (Lk 1:79). Towards the end of his life Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and commands them to wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14).

Jesus marked his footprints today. It shows us his presence with us. Let us ask today, ‘how many people have left their footprints in the shore of our life? Let us be grateful to them. Let us leave a footprint in the lives of others. Christmas teaches us to get rooted in our lives. Only rootedness of a tree makes the openness possible. Let us get rooted in life – in its fragility, splendor, joy and pain. The footprints of Jesus smashed all kinds of divisions and alienations – sacred and secular, male and female, rich and poor, heaven and earth’. Let us raise up to that oneness.

He smiles our smiles. 
He weeps our tears. 
He is God Immanuel. 
He is God with us. 
He is now. 
He is here. 
Let us keep his footprints alive.