POPE EMERITUS NENEDICT XVI
FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
I heard this story long ago and feel it should be told again. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do on this feast of the Epiphany or “Little Christmas” as it is sometimes called.
Old grandmother Babushka was a holy woman. She read the scriptures, and she knew that the longawaited Savior was to be born in Bethlehem. So, she gathered together all of her possessions and moved to David’s city. There she lived in a simple house and prayed each day that God would let her know when the Savior was born. She intended to offer her possessions as a gift to the newborn king. One night after a simple supper, she turned off the light and went to bed. But before she fell asleep there was a knock. “Who could it be at this hour?” she thought. She lit the lamp and opened the door.
There she saw three strangers with camels standing before her. “The Savior is born,” they announced, “and we have come from the east to worship him. We were told in a dream to stop here and to bring you along with us. We have gifts to offer, and we know that you do also.” Old grandmother Babushka rejoiced. “The time has come, the Savior is born,” she thought. But it was late, and the night was cold and so she decided that she would go and present her gifts tomorrow. She ascertained from the strangers the exact directions to the stable and wrote them carefully down. Then she sent them on their way. The next morning, she arose with the sun and gathered all of her gifts: food, clothing, and money. She followed the directions directly to the stable. When she entered, it was empty. The holy family had already departed. Old grandmother Babushka stomped her foot, “I’ve missed them,” she said, “I should have come last night!”
But she was a determined woman. “I’ll keep looking for them,” she decided, “they cannot have gone too far.” And so old grandmother Babushka began to look. She asked everyone she met. Did they know of a child, of a poor child, perhaps to be found in a manger, perhaps even living on the street. She wanted them to tell her all that they knew. And they did. Some people knew of a poor family who lived on the outskirts of the city. Other people knew of a young child who was sick. Others heard of strangers who were in town with no place to stay. Old grandmother Babushka visited them all. But she could never be certain whether this child and this family was the child and the family that the strangers had told her about.
So, she continued to look, week after week, month after month. She found many children, poor children everywhere. She found many a cradle, many a manger, and many a mother nursing her child. In each place, she left a part of the gift that she was going to give to the Christ child: here some food, to this family some money, to this child some clothes. In time, all that she had was gone. She returned to her own home empty handed.
That night, Jesus appeared to her in a dream. “There you are!” she exclaimed, “I have looked everywhere for you and have not been able to find you. I had gifts to give you but now they are gone.” “I know,” said Jesus, “and I have received everyone. For whatever you gave to the least of my brothers or sisters you gave to me.” Old grandmother Babushka smiled. She was satisfied. She had not seen the Christ child in the manger, but she had lived his gospel.
Few of us here today have ever been to Bethlehem. Those who visited that holy place found that the manger was empty. But being a disciple of Jesus is not seeing him in the stable. It is living his gospel. Whenever we feed the poor, whenever we visit the sick or imprisoned, whenever we welcome the stranger, we are ministering to Christ himself. When we are patient with a relative who irritates us, when we are kind to the kid at school that everyone else mocks, when we listen to the person who is grieving or are generous with those who struggle, we are not only serving them. We are serving Jesus.
We cannot go with the Magi to Bethlehem, but we can offer Christ our gifts. Not gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh but gifts of respect, compassion, and love.
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