Celebrating Christmas in a divided land

A girl holds her baby Jesus figurine as Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 11. In an annual tradition, Roman children brought their figurines of the baby Jesus to the Angelus. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Welcoming the Prince of Peace into our homes this year will be difficult for many of us as we ponder the deep divisions that plague our families, friends, country and our world. We survived Thanksgiving around our tables by assiduously avoiding the topic of politics. What do we do now?

We should look first to those things which have always bound us together. All of us love and care for our families, especially our children. We are committed to doing all that we can to ensure their success and happiness. Christmas is, after all, a time for children. It is certainly not a time to try to convince others just how wrong their deeply held convictions may be.

Family is a good place to start, but it is not enough. I believe the message of God becoming man means that we need to look beyond ourselves and our families. We cannot be content with being concerned only with our own economic and physical well-being. We find in both Pope Francis and the Gospels that we are called to care for others.

Pope Francis throughout his papacy has highlighted his concern and preference for the poor. At the Fortune-Time Global Forum last week at the Vatican he again urged us to action. Francis insisted that "We must listen to the voices of the poor." He admonished that indeed we must "see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help." Our God came to us as a poor child and dwelt among us. In Chapter 25 of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we will ultimately be judged by the way we treat others. "I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink ... naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me. ..."

This Christmas we need to expand and extend our vision. We need to look beyond and through our divisions to love and serve those around us. We need to be that instrument of peace in our homes, at work, our churches, and in our communities.

We also need to see and feel the suffering beyond our community wherever it exists. We need to be present in our hearts to the struggling coal miners in West Virginia, those dying in the streets of Chicago, the children of Aleppo, or those suffering from the attack on a Christmas market in Germany. Our compassion needs to also include those filled with such hatred that they commit terrible atrocities against their fellow citizens of the world.

A narrow focus on those closest to us just won't do this Christmas. As we ponder the babe of Bethlehem, we need to remember that he came because of his love for each and everyone of us.

He calls out to us to follow him, so that we can do the same.

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