I’m sure that everyone is quite familiar with the biblical story of the Three Wise Men (Kings or Magi) who visited the baby Jesus. As I reflect upon this story this Christmas, my focus always turns to the star that guided these three men. This star is better known as the “Star of Bethlehem.” When thinking about this story and this star, I always think back to one of my missionary journeys to Africa. This one particular journey led me to Africa on Christmas Eve, and during a lengthy, very spirited Christmas Eve service, one of the Sisters had shared some information with the villagers that were in attendance. Much to my surprise, the information being shared that evening was about me, the visitor in attendance who was from Bethlehem. No, not “the” Bethlehem, better known as the birthplace of Jesus, but the beautiful little city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that was founded on Christmas Eve night, and thus named after the birthplace of our Lord.
The irony of this particular trip at Christmastime is something that I hold close to my heart. I, much like Mary and Joseph, was also a traveler, finding myself in an unfamiliar place, very far from home on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Mary and Joseph were turned away from lodging on their travels. I, however, had quite a different experience. I was welcomed with open arms by the villagers, who did not have much room for me, but fortunately they were willing to make the room!
That Christmas Eve night, while the villagers sang Christmas carols, one song in particular hit home for me (no pun intended). When I heard the people singing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” I began reflecting on the story of the Three Wise Men. Just as these men had traveled to Bethlehem to deliver gifts, I was traveling from Bethlehem to give gifts. In particular, I was traveling to give one of the best Christmas presents that I may have ever given in my lifetime, the gift of water. While it may be hard to imagine any child in America getting told that their Christmas present was water and them reacting so joyfully, in Africa the gift of water was essentially the gift of life. Without a clean and permanent source of water, these villagers could not drink, wash food, wash clothes, bath, etc. without risking infection, disease, or ultimately death. Therefore, much like the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, who blessed all of us with our beautiful lives, I was bringing the gift of life to this one, ever so deserving, African village.
These African villagers were certainly grateful for the Christmas present that I was bringing to them, but do not let that fool you. These people, who may not have more than a small one room hut and the clothes on their back, are always this welcoming, always willing to lend a hand, With the hustle and bustle of the Season, and the struggle of the ongoing pandemic, we may often forget to be as generous as these villagers. This Season, let us channel the story of the Three Wise Men ~ and those in that African villagers. Our gifts don't have to be gold, frankincense, or myrrh, or even water, but our prayers and loving support of those missionaries who lift up children and families in the Pope's missions will be of immense value.
Let us always remember the words Jesus spoke: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me".
Merry Christmas to all!
This year for Christmas, give #justonemore gift ~ sending help to a child in the Pope's missions. Click here to learn more.
“Hol(l)y Headlines!” ~ a bit of a play on words ~ is an "Extra! Extra! Read All About It" call to build missionary momentum as part of our ongoing effort to educate and motivate the next generation of the Catholic Church's missionaries. The blog's author, Holly Benner, is National Coordinator for the Missionary Childhood Association. She's also the mission education coordinator in her home Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. She has a passion for the missions and experience in making mission real at the diocesan level. For 10 years, Holly traveled frequently to Africa as president of a faith-based non-profit that she founded, one focused on developing sustainable water resources among poor communities.