Christmas 2014

NativitySceneTo be honest, Christmas Day is no time to be born, especially when you love Jesus as I do. Confession: love Jesus, 364 days, jealous of Jesus, one day. But my parents didn’t share this sentiment. I was their first-born of five and remained the only girl. Born and raised in the Netherlands, I was doted on,  the only one receiving presents on Christmas Day. I still cherish those days of warmth and love – their memories still give off fuzzies.

As a teenager I had a stubborn justice streak, though, some strange wild desire to do the unconventional in the name of Jesus, something that made my Sunday-observing Catholic parents very nervous, especially at Christmas time. Given that I was my parents’ firstborn child, on Christmas Day, this created a lot of pressure not to rock boats on Christmas Day because, besides Jesus’ birthday, it was my special day and by extension my parents’ special day as my arrival had ushered them into parenthood.

But my zeal for Jesus got the best of me, and one year I announced I would not be home for Christmas (my birthday), but would volunteer at the nearby nursing home to be with those who had no family. I was in for an odd experience: delightful surprise at one of my best Christmases ever combined with sour comments about “being rebellious” and spoiling the family fun.

This memory came back last year as, once again, my zeal for Jesus got the best of me. Together with husband and daughter I spent Christmas Day volunteering at the local community Christmas dinner with all who had no one to celebrate with. This time there were no sour comments or resentful looks; we all agreed it was the best way to honour Christ’s birth. I’m hooked now; the family gathering will have to take place on another day close to Christmas. Pope Francis takes every possible opportunity to point out the obvious: followers of Christ are to look, sound and behave counter-culturally, especially in what has become the peak buying and consuming season of the year. Jesus, born in a stable, came into the world to fight and defeat the demons of greed and selfishness, prejudice and hardness of heart. From the manger to the cross, Jesus fought these death-dealing trends in the human heart, thus opening the gates of heaven through radical compassion and mercy, love and self-giving for the “least of these.” Read more at:

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