The Nativity of the Lord

December 25, 2019

Vigil: Is 62:1-5/Acts 13:16-17, 22-25/Mt 1:1-25 or 1:18-25 (13)
Night: Is 9:1-6/Ti 2:11-14/Lk 2:1-14 (14)
Dawn: Is 62:11-12/Ti 3:4-7/Lk 2:15-20 (15)
Day: Is 52:7-10/Heb 1:1-6/Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14 (16) Pss Prop

If you have visited the Christmas markets in Italy, you likely saw figures that look like witches with a broomstick. They represent the legend of Befana, who brings presents for children on the feast of Epiphany. This short poem tells her story: 

Befana, the housewife, scrubbing her pane, 
Saw three old sages ride down the lane, 
Saw three grey travelers pass by her door— 
Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior. 

“Where journey you, sirs?” she asked of them. 
Balthazar answered, “To Bethlehem, 
For we have news of a marvelous thing. 
Born in a stable is Christ the King.” 

“Give him my welcome!” 
Then Caspar smiled, 
“Come with us, mistress, to greet the Child.” 

“Oh, happily, happily would I fare, 
Were my dusting through and I’d polished the stair. 
Old Melchior leaned on his saddle horn, 
“Then send but a gift to the small Newborn.” 

“Oh, gladly, gladly I’d send him one, 
Were the hearthstone swept and my weaving done. 
As soon as ever I’ve baked my bread, 
I’ll fetch him a pillow for his head, 
And a coverlet, too,” Befana said. 
“When the rooms are aired and the linen dry, 
I’ll look at the Babe.” 
But the three rode by. 

She worked for a day and a night and a day, 
Then, gifts in her hand, took up her way. 
But she never found where the Christ Child lay. 

And still she wanders at Christmastide, 
Houseless, whose house was all her pride. 
Whose heart was tardy, whose gifts were late; 
Wanders, and knocks at every gate. 
Crying, “Good people, the bells begin! 
Put off your toiling and let love in!” 

Today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and with him the birth of forgiveness and eternal life. God’s love for us is immediate and requires no preconditions. Is our response the same? 

Don’t wait until the food is cleared and the presents are put away to respond. Take a moment right now to embrace, reciprocate, and be thankful for God’s generous, merciful, and unconditional love, which was brought into the world with the birth of his Son. Merry Christmas! 

Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D.