Saturday, April 26, 2014

Christmas Story

On the last Sunday of November 2013, Fr. Kevin, the Parish priest of the St. Josephs Catholic Church at Boroko told a story about Christmas that had the congregation in unusual laughter and smiles. 

It was also the Sunday last to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe, which was first introduced by Pope Pius XI in 1925. The intention was to emphasize the majesty and power of Jesus Christ, King and Ruler of the world.  

The story that Fr. Kevin told at the end of the mass was about a little boy who wanted so much to play the character of Joseph in the Christmas play. To his dismay he was given the role of the inn-keeper instead of the role of Joseph. On the day the play was performed, only the boy’s mother went to watch the play. The father was unable to attend the performance to the dismay of the boy.

In the play Joseph leads Mary on a donkey to the inn to look for shelter for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Joseph knocks on the door to the inn. The inner keeper opens the door and tells Joseph that only Mary is allowed in the inn. The inn keeper tells Joseph off and shuts the door on him.  

The story reminds me about the importance of recognizing our own strengths and weaknesses, about our own wants and needs, about who we wanted to be and never became. It is a wonderful story told at the end of the mass, but which held the kernel of truth to the meaning of life itself. Did we live the life we wanted to live this year? Did we live the Christian life we were supposed to live this year? Did we get distracted from the path that we were to follow this year?

The story reminds me that we may have wanted something so bad, but as it turned out we missed out on the opportunity. The opportunity to make our selves in to the person we wanted to be was not ours. Instead we were given the second best, the alternative, or the next best thing.

I also think that perhaps our prayers for what we wanted were never answered. We are ready to give up trying. We feel let down. We feel someone is responsible for our failure, our misery, our misfortune, and that we are ready to blame someone for everything that went wrong in our life. We are ready to see others as the cause of our problems. We are ready to find others to blame, except ourselves. We are convinced someone has to pay for the situation we are in at this present moment.

The story blended very well with the theme of the last Sunday of November mass held to mark the end of the liturgical year and the end of the year-long journey through the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel reading (Luke 23: 35-43) is about Christ the King, whom we often forget as the King of the Universe and the Universal King, above all earthly kings in whatever form, persons, characters, or persuasions.

We may have forgotten who are or what it means to live a Christian life and who is King in our lives. The conversation between Jesus and one of the thieves hanging on the cross with him reveals to us what we need to do. The thief says to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answers him: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This is a very powerful reminder to all who profess Christianity that even if you have strayed you must never give up on believing Jesus Christ as the King.

The thief who had never done any good in life and for which he had to pay in crucifixion acknowledged Jesus Christ as the King in his last dying words. His words alone saved him.

The birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve in a barnyard is special to all Christians. We are reminded that Jesus began his human life in a manger and with only the shepherds and their sheep.  We are reminded again and again that Jesus did not choose to be born there, God did to show that he gave his Son to the people he loved so that they are saved even up to the last moments of life.

Christians observe Christmas as the beginning of life rather than as the end of life. Christmas signifies renewal of the spirit and beginning of hope, not the end of a journey, but the beginning of a journey.

In many parts of Papua New Guinea Christmas is a perfect time for celebrations because everyone who has gone away is home. It is a perfect time for sharing of the community spirit and celebrating achievements and good harvests. Many people return to their homes to renew their relationships with fellow tribesmen and tribeswomen.

Christmas offers the opportunity to review the journey one has taken in life. The Christmas period is for me a time of humility and appreciation of what God has done for me. It is a time for reflection on the meaning of life.

It is not a time to score points. It is not about misgivings. It is a time to accept whatever we are so as to move forward. It is a time to accept who we are and what our roles are in the grand picture or scheme or in the design of the Maker. We have our roles to play. We are an important element in the equation of life that God wants us to accept.

If nothing worked for you this year then you need to change it next year. Don’t expect others to change it for you.

Ask yourself what God’s purpose is in your life.

Merry Christmas to all readers, who shared the journey of life with me, this year!

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