Celebrate the real meaning of Christmas
Today, as well as being ‘Gaudete’ (rejoicing) Sunday is also ‘Bambinelli’ Sunday when it has become traditional to bless the figure of the Baby JESUS for your cribs at home. This tradition was begun by Pope St John Paul II when the children and adults would bring their Baby JESUS figures to be blessed by the Pope in St Peter’s Square on the Third Sunday of Advent, and it continues to this day. We will do the same at all Masses this weekend.
Some friends of mine in Ireland have a beautiful family tradition which I would like to share with you and encourage you to do yourselves at home, especially with your children, because it helps to keep in our minds the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Saviour JESUS Christ into this sin-laden world. Don’t allow the secular sanitised Christmas to gain pride of place in your families. The Christ Child must be the centre of our Christmas celebrations. Here is what you could do. You can make your own variations.
After Mass on Christmas Eve or after Midnight Mass, but when it’s dark, process with your figure of the Baby JESUS and lighted candles through the house and lay Him in the manger whilst singing the carol ‘Away in a manger’. Your youngest child could carry the Baby JESUS. Here are the texts for easy use.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.
On arrival at the crib, the father or mother reads St Luke’s account of the birth of JESUS.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
This is just one of many ways of remembering what Christmas is really about. These types of traditions are important to hand on to our children because it helps hand the Faith down to them before they even really understand it. Keep the Faith alive! Let us reclaim our Catholic heritage and celebrate in a truly Catholic way the coming of the Messiah and Saviour, our Lord JESUS Christ.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC