by Sr. Joan Jurski, OSF
In October of this year I made a retreat at Lial Renewal Center in Whitehouse, Ohio. The property abuts a forest that one can easily enter from the Center’s property. I love nature and decided that I would walk through the woods and enjoy the beauty of creation. Once I started I kept going deeper and deeper into the forest and crossed different paths. After some time, I realized I didn’t know where I was. Where was my starting path? Panic began to creep up. I was a little more than nervous. I had a phone but no number of the Center. If I called 911 where would I tell them to find me? I was really getting nervous. I breathed a prayer and thankfully, God was on call that moment as God usually is. I saw a woman coming toward me. Gratefully I got directions and was able to leave the forest. It was a different entrance. I was very thankful for familiar sights.
What does my forest experience have to do with Christmas? I thought of the word path and began thinking about the different paths we all take to celebrate Christmas. There is Santa Claus, early shopping trips, gift sharing, parties of all kinds, traditional meals, baking and many more activities. None are either good or bad. My question is “Where do these paths lead?” There is an old saying that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” How do I use this time before Christmas called Advent for Christians? Is there anticipation for the birth of the Child Jesus? How are His love, mercy, compassion, humility, justice and joy wrapped up in my preparation? Do I take some more time to pray? A path always leads to someplace. It isn’t the end destination. So many paths to Christmas. How do I define the Christmas destination? How do I use my path to discover the Child Jesus and celebrate his birthday?
For Franciscans Christmas is so special because it was Francis who gave us and the world the first Christmas crib. In 1223, Francis called the people of the village of Greccio together along with some animals to act out the birth of the Christ Child. In that cave in the mountain of Italy, the first crib came to be. Ever since that time people throughout the world have set up a crib for Christmas, some very simple and others more elaborate. The Christmas crib reminds us whose birthday it is. No matter the style of the crib it is the memory of the birth of Christ that calls us to rejoice and be glad for the Savior is born. Define your path and celebrate Christmas joyfully and merrily!