by Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Isaiah 9:1-6 | Titus 2:11-14 | Luke 2:1-14
(Readings are for the Midnight Mass)

Holy Family 2In one of the early writings of the Desert Masters, the following tribute was recorded: “Abba Poemen said about Abbot Fior, that every single day he made a fresh beginning.”

The faith for fresh beginnings is clearly one of the lessons of Christmas.

In Isaiah, it is God who makes the new beginning with a people for whom it was now obvious, failure was to be commonplace. By beginning again with a faithless people, God enables them go begin again as well.

Like Mary, we must go to the Bethlehem of our own lives, to those places where our own family rejects us, ignores us, irritates us or needs us. We must begin again to be kind and understanding and supportive of one another. We must go wherever we are needed, not simply to the neighbors who are near to us, known to us and like us.

Like the shepherds, we must have the sense to change our lives, and “in haste,” in order to respond to the vagaries of the world around us.

Like the Magi who followed the star and found the Christ, we too, might be asked to “depart to our own country by another way.” Like the Magi, once we really see the Christ, we must begin to follow other ways. We can’t go back by way of profit and power anymore. We can’t proceed on the ways of oppression and division. We can’t think like we used to. We can’t want what we used to consider valuable.

Like Joseph in Egypt, we have to begin again to carry the Word by showing steadfast love to the foreigners in our own lives. We need to reach out to the people whose skin colors are different, those who speak with an accent, those who have different values and those who believe in a world of a different shape.

We have to do more this year than simply speak to the foreigners in our midst. We must begin to go to them. We must learn to live well with people very much unlike us in background, culture and religion. We have to stop expecting the whole world to look and think like us. We must learn to love everyone steadfastly, despite differences, despite distances.

We must begin again, like Mary and Joseph in Judea, to deal with those who are hostile to us without responding with hostility ourselves. We must begin to see that our task is not to destroy the enemy nor to become emotionally and spiritually captive to the enemy that we carry within us. Our task is to learn to live well despite the enemy. We must see that the enemy does not become our excuse to be less than we can be.

Finally, like the Holy Family, we have to find the Nazareth that nourishes our lives, feeds our souls and directs our energies to the carrying of the Word with steadfast love. Every day we must make a new beginning to build the world of peace and justice in our own lives that Bethlehem promised, Egypt saved and Nazareth nourished. We must begin and begin and begin again with steadfast love.


Read one or all of the Christmas scriptures. Do you see any connection between the scripture and how you prepared for and celebrated Christmas? How so?

Now that you’ve seen the Christ, what old way are you leaving behind? What new ways are you going to follow?


* This reflection is from Advent 1991: Waiting with the Poor. And wishing you a peaceful and joyful Christmas, from all of us at Pax Christi USA.

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