To me, the best music of the liturgical year is our Christmas songs. I often wish the Christmas season was as long as our 40 days of Lent, giving us plenty of time to sing through the repertoire. Many of us can probably name a carol that is a personal favorite. For me it is “O Holy Night.” It became my favorite song, believe it or not, on a hot and humid June day in Juarez, Mexico.
I had taken a group of high school students down for a work camp. The “house” we were assigned to work on was 10 feet by 12 feet and in a very desolate area outside the city. Parts of three walls were constructed with cement block. There was no roof, door or windows. Houses around it were mainly constructed of cardboard and tin from old traffic signs.
Each day we were given a bag of cement and told to do our best to pour part of the floor. With old shovels we dug a few pails full of the surrounding sand to add to the cement. Some neighbors came over, giving us water to add to the mix. I was struck by their silent generosity. They were sharing what little water they had. Three times a week a water truck would come by to fill a large, plastic open-topped barrel near each home. This water was used for their drinking, cooking and bathing.
One day I noticed two small children peering at us from behind a barbed-wire fence. There was a wire strung from their house, holding a few worn pieces of clothing. The poverty they lived in was shocking. Looking at their innocent eyes the line,
“Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth”
came to my mind and heart. I cried. I knew I was looking into the face of God. I fully believe that each one of us is made in God’s image and likeness and it broke my heart to see some of God’s image struggling to live. I prayed that in the midst of their reality, they knew how loved and important and valued they were. I prayed they knew the worth of their souls. I tried to speak to them, but they laughed and ran behind their house, offering me a special moment of a child’s joy; joy even in the midst of poverty.
Christmas is about celebrating with family and friends. It’s about sharing joy and love and peace. It’s about allowing the blessings we have been given to lead us to the generosity of sharing those blessings with others. It’s also about recognizing the gift we have been given in Christ, who came to remind us of the worth of our souls. And it’s to lead us more deeply to recognizing and responding to the presence of God in the souls of all people.
Unlike our Christmas music, which will soon be put away for another year, Christmas calls us to live the reality of God with and within us every day of our lives.
My wishes to you for a very blessed and holy Christmas. May you feel your worth.