In his message for Christmas, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz writes of “the uninvited guest who transforms our estrangement into a community.”
That transformative power lies in God’s love.
The image that accompanies this year’s Christmas Message on page one may raise some eyebrows. It’s not the typical Renaissance painting that depicts an idealized pastoral scene. Those paintings make it hard to imagine the truly humble beginnings of Jesus’ life.
A stable would have smelled of animals and hay, possibly animal waste. The son of God lay in a feeding trough, where bugs and other parasites likely gathered along with the animals for their sustenance.
It was, as Pope Francis recently said, a place of humility.
This year’s front-page nativity image imagines the Holy Family today, if they made their trek to Louisville instead of Bethlehem. If there was no room at the inn here, where would they go?
Louisville’s homeless, who want to stay together as a family, often turn to the shelter of an overpass. The one depicted in the photo illustration was located downtown near an on-ramp to I-65 North.
The Record photographed it in 2019, when local volunteers were visiting the men and women who called the roadside home.
The Record’s graphic designer, Jennifer Jenkins, overlaid an image of reporter Ruby Thomas’ créche. And Jenkins layered into the image other symbols of the local homeless community, such as the signs people hold asking for work and food.
The créche is something most of us have in our homes, perhaps something we’ve spent quite a lot of money to buy. Yet these beautifully carved pieces and fine porcelain figurines represent the most humble divinity.
It seemed apropos to juxtapose this créche image with the roadside encampment as a reminder this Christmas of what to celebrate.
Archbishop Kurtz reminds us of our estrangement from the uninvited guest and our need to be transformed by Jesus’ love.
Our estrangement marginalizes Louisville’s homeless population, refugees, immigrants and others outside of the mainstream, such as those affected by racism and bigotry and others treated without the dignity due to the human person.
Pope Francis, during his weekly general audience Dec. 22, said that Jesus’ humble birth reminds us of God’s love for all humanity.
He called on Catholics to reflect on the coming celebration of Christ’s humble birth in Bethlehem.
“Let’s think (about that),” he said. “The Creator of the universe was not given a place to be born.”
The shepherds, who visited the manger after receiving an announcement of Jesus’ birth by an angel, “personify the poor of Israel, lowly people who interiorly live with the awareness of their own want.”
“Precisely for this reason, they trust more than others in God. They were the first to see the son of God made man, and this encounter changed them deeply,” the pope said.
He noted that very little is known about the Magi, but their journey to find Jesus represents those “who have sought God down through the ages, and who set out on a journey to find him.”
“They also represent the rich and powerful, but only those who are not slaves to possessions, who are not ‘possessed’ by the things they believe they possess,” he added.
Only through humility, he said, can one truly understand God and oneself because it “opens us up to the experience of truth, of authentic joy, of knowing what matters.”
May we humble ourselves this Christmas season, like God himself who gave his son the humblest beginning, as we seek to transform our estrangements into community, through his love.