The Christmas season is typically one of family togetherness and joy. Yet for many it is a time of stress and division. I witnessed that reality firsthand ministering to troubled teenagers in a residential treatment facility. At Boysville, the young men had conflicted feelings about Christmas, since for them it often was a time of loneliness or family conflict.
We made Christmas at Boysville a time to experience God’s love through others. Volunteers would bring us gifts of NFL/NBA jerseys, sports equipment, and games. More importantly, they would spend time telling the teenagers that they were important and that we cared about them. One year, these volunteers also brought a large cake and gathered the students to sing “Happy Birthday.” The boys were trying to figure out who had a birthday. Sensing their confusion, one of the ladies reminded them it was Jesus’ birthday and proceeded to lead them in singing “Happy Birthday.”
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From that year on, it became a Christmas tradition at Boysville. With everyone assembled at breakfast, and before the presents were distributed, all would sing a loud, heartfelt “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. It drew all there more deeply into the mystery of God’s love revealed in Jesus.
The Nativity is a remarkable story: God became human, just like us. The Savior of the world came in humility, born of a poor family in a simple dwelling in a small town. The Son of God allowed himself to be raised and taught, to work and serve. He embraced the outcast and, through his parables and lessons, challenged us to do the same. As we celebrate again Jesus’ humble birth, we seek, like him, to humble ourselves in service of others, so that not only they, but we, too, know the true peace, joy, and wonder of Christmas.
This reflection for Christmas was written by Br. Chester Freel, C.S.C., who recently finished his term as Superior of the Midwest Province of Brothers in the United States. It originally appeared in the revised edition of The Cross, Our Only Hope, available from Ave Maria Press. The painting was done by Fr. Ronald Patrick Raab, C.S.C., Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.