Don’t Forget the Love of the Christchild
The essential message of Christmas cannot be forgotten by January, and SARAH-LEAH PIMENTEL has found a way to make sure it won’t in 2017.
As I sat in Adoration for the last time in 2016, I thought back over that past year.
The first thing that came to mind is the number of loved ones and famous people who died in 2016. Almost every month this year I received news of the passing of someone I knew, personally or by dint of their celebrity.
Following the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher as the year was ending, the comments on Facebook were almost of exasperation, as if we just couldn’t take anymore bad news that affects our lives, even if in some insignificant way.
Reflecting further, I thought of the many events in our country and world this past year that have caused us to be fearful about the future.
The waste of resources in South Africa left us angry and calling for a just share of the nation’s wealth. Time and again, we were disappointed by politicians’ empty promises, the lack of respect for democratic structures, and we looked on sadly as Thuli Madonsela—our own national superhero—concluded her term as Public Protector. And we hoped that her successor would follow in her brilliant footsteps as the nation’s watchdog…
2016 wore us down. Every time we heard bad news, we became a little more despondent and found it harder to be joyful or reach out to others. This wearying of the soul slowly starts to chip away at our ability to love ourselves and the people around us. And ultimately, it also hampers our love for God.
I don’t want to forget the Christchild in this new year. So I’ve resolved to not put away my Nativity set.When we are so weighed down, we are too emotionally exhausted to pray and the troubles of our lives and the world around distract us from communion with God, robbing us of the peace we desire deep in our hearts.
In Scriptures we are told: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 Jn 4:18).
These are difficult words to digest. If we cannot love, then we don’t know God. Conversely, if we know God, we experience his love and we respond by loving him in return, that love then infuses our relationship with our families and communities.
God knows that our human experiences often leave us feeling dejected. Lovingly and tenderly, he lifts us out of our sadness. What easier way to love than in the presence of a baby?
One of my colleagues had a baby this year and brought her baby girl into the office several times.
This had an immediate effect on the office environment. All work ceased. Irrespective of age or gender, colleagues got up from their desks for a chance to hold the baby or play with her on the floor. Others took an active interest by commenting on how much she has grown since the last time they saw her and asked questions about her development.
Even the least sentimental person could not walk past without smiling and pausing for a few moments upon hearing the baby’s delighted gurgles.
God knows that nothing pulls on our heartstrings more readily than a tiny, helpless child. He sent his own tiny, helpless child into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf Jn 3:16).
God did not send his son as a mighty conqueror or a superhero character who rescues the oppressed and afflicted. He sent a small, helpless child who can do nothing for us. Nothing. And yet, everything.
This is what we celebrate evey year at Christmas, as we did just a few weeks ago. On Christmas Eve we laid the Christchild in the manger of our Nativity sets, at home and at Church. We opened our hearts and allowed ourselves to be touched by this child’s innocence, beauty, and joy. We allowed ourselves to be consumed by love.
This is the love that strengthens us and gives us much-needed fuel for the journey ahead. This love encourages us to love those around us more perfectly. This is love that draws us out of our protective shells and allows us to reach out to those needing our help.
The act of reaching out in love to a baby’s cries was evident in the widespread gestures of care and help given to The Love of Christ (TLC) Ministries in Johannesburg after the awful kidnapping incident in November.
Robbers attempted to kidnap children and security guards from the home for abandoned children, which is run by the Catholic Jarvis family in Eikenhof. Police foiled the attempt.
Local businesses provided security upgrades to the Catholic-run children’s home, wholesalers Macro donated R60000 of basic necessities for the year, and people of all faiths and backgrounds responded to Jacaranda FM’s call to help TLC.
In general, South Africans are wonderful at coming together in times of crisis. But in this case, I genuinely believe that people’s hearts were opened in an extraordinary way because they felt called to help protect these innocent children who were so badly traumatized by the violation of their home.
As we make our way through 2017, with whatever joys and challenges it brings, let us not lose sight of the Christchild.
God brought love into the world with the birth of his Son, filling us with joy, wonder, and hope for the future. In the same way as the child grew in the home in Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, and later revealed himself as the long awaited Messiah, may Christ also grow in our hearts this year so that we can reveal him to those who meet us.
I don’t want to forget the Christchild in this new year. So I’ve resolved to not put away my Nativity set.
I’ve packed away the tree and the tinsel, the lights and the Christmas music. But if you visit me in 2017, you’ll find a small Nativity set in my living room, a reminder that love is born into my heart each day.