Magazine article U.S. Catholic

O Little Town of Bete Hor: "Nativity Scenes" from around the Third World

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

O Little Town of Bete Hor: "Nativity Scenes" from around the Third World

Article excerpt

One of my most memorable Christmas Masses was 17 years ago. The midnight Mass my wife and I attended that year didn't feature a particularly moving liturgy or powerful homily; the place where the Mass was held was a drab, nondescript, all-purpose student center; we didn't even know anyone else in the congregation.

But somehow the gospel reading that night--proclaiming the "good news of great joy" about our Savior's birth in the lowly manger--really hit home for us in a new way. It did so for the very simple reason that the Mass was celebrated in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal in the Himalayas, and that for the past couple of months we had been traveling through several poor Asian countries.

As we listened to the familiar words of the gospel describing the pregnant Mary and Joseph's arduous journey to Bethlehem, we recalled families traveling on donkeys and oxcarts, and men, women, and children trekking barefoot with heavy baskets on their backs through the mountains. As we heard about the shepherds in the fields, I thought back to the shepherd boy who had brought his two (mostly well-behaved) goats onto the old, rickety overland bus we had taken in rural China.

In many ways, the poverty and the struggles--as well as the joys and the hopes--of people all around the Third World still closely mirror those of the shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, and farmworkers of first-century Palestine.

It is our hope that meditating on the real-life "Nativity scenes" on these pages may rekindle in all of us our joy about the coming of our Messiah and our determination to actively proclaim his Good News by living it more faithfully in our lives and by working more urgently for justice and peace on Earth, particularly for the least of our brothers and sisters all around the world.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined.... For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken.... For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rest upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Price of Peace (Isa. 9:2-6). …

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