Even though we don’t usually place the infant in the crèche until Christmas Eve and it’s only the second week in Advent, we are going to begin our reflections with the baby Jesus, since there would be no celebration at all without him.
Jeanne Jugan used to say: “My Jesus, I have only you.” She understood that her religious consecration was a matter of having one life, one heart, one soul and one will with Jesus. I’m sure that this was her
prayer as she gazed at the manger that Christmas in 1843, when she had just been deprived of her role as superior. Jesus was everything to her; she recognized him in the disguise of the aged poor; she found him in the tabernacle and the littleness of the manger. And she saw
him in the disconcerting circumstances in which she found herself in December, 1843.
That’s how Jesus is in his coming among us — unexpected, disconcerting, emptied of riches and beauty. The people of his time expected a powerful leader who would overturn the status quo and establish a new earthly kingdom. Instead, Christ came in meekness and poverty as a tiny newborn baby. He was born of an unknown couple in an insignificant town, in the most primitive conditions. Yet this was the Lord of lords and King of kings!
So while we might be tempted to look for all the trappings of a perfect Christmas in the local mall, maybe we should really be looking elsewhere. I propose two ways we can prepare for Christmas in a way that would please Saint Jeanne Jugan and Jesus himself: First, choose one thing you can do to simplify your family’s celebration and make it more focused on the real reason for the season.
Second, look around for someone in your family or you neighborhood who just doesn’t fit in, someone who seems like an outsider, someone who is unpopular or obviously in need. Reach out to this person in some way through a concrete act of mercy. He or she may be Christ for you, who said, “What you did for the least of my brothers and sisters you did for me.”
Finally, here is some practical advice from Saint Jeanne Jugan: “Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. Go and find him when your strength and patience are giving out, when you feel lonely and helpless. Say to him: ‘You know well what is happening, my dear Jesus. I have only you. Come to my aid …’ And then go your way. And don’t worry about knowing how you are going to manage. It is enough to have told our good Lord. He has an excellent memory.”