By Rev. Justo González, II, M.Div., M.S.S.A., M.A.P.M.- Pastor, El Nuevo Camino & Pilgrim – St. Luke’s United Church of Christ
“José subió de Galilea, de la ciudad de Nazaret, a Judea, a la ciudad de David que se llama Belén, por ser él de la casa y de la familia de David, para inscribirse junto con María, comprometida para casarse con él, la cual estaba encinta. Sucedió que mientras estaban ellos allí, se cumplieron los días de su alumbramiento. Y dio a luz a su Hijo primogénito; Lo envolvió en pañales y Lo acostó en un pesebre, porque no había lugar para ellos en el mesón. En la misma región había pastores que estaban en el campo, cuidando sus rebaños durante las vigilias de la noche. Y un ángel del Señor se les presentó, y la gloria del Señor los rodeó de resplandor, y tuvieron gran temor. Pero el ángel les dijo: “No teman, porque les traigo buenas nuevas de gran gozo que serán para todo el pueblo; porque les ha nacido hoy, en la ciudad de David, un Salvador, que es Cristo (el Mesías) el Señor. Esto les servirá de señal: hallarán a un Niño envuelto en pañales y acostado en un pesebre.” Lucas 2:4-12
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12
“Susie, adonde están los pasteles?”, asked Michael. “Come on, who has the pernil? Stop playing and bring out the pernil”, said Louie. “Smells great. Let’s prepare the table”, said Johnny to Maria Ellena. “Here’s the white rice and beans”, said Provi. “Justo, tengo coquito”, said Ventura. La Navidad was in the air.
“Nos vamos a gozar con esta comida”, said Pablo to his dad, Joe. Everyone was ready to eat and open gifts.
Las niñas, Millie, Annabel, MisiFu, Sienna, Mia, Valeria, y Rocio are looking at the gift boxes and focused on opening them. “What do you think Santa brought you?” asked Aunt Beth? After all, Christmas is about food, family and gifts. Well, really more about gifts. These are young girls so that makes sense. Mikel, Pablo, and the newest male angel to join the familia, Gabriel, are also waiting but not really happy they have to wait.
Without words, everyone hears the collective facial expressions of the kids, “Yo quiero regalos! Santa came! Would you let me open my gifts, already?” There would soon be a revolt. “Let the kids open their gifts”, suggested Joe, Cindy, David, Eric, Karla and Juan.
Susie, on the other hand, was upstairs. Food was left to cook itself. Cindy, Patty, and Ana women-ed the kitchen and had everything under control. Sue sat in her room even as a house full of guests waited. She didn’t care that others waited for “la cena” and the gifts. Well, really she did care but she had a greater purpose. Searching she found it. The small Christmas tree. She sat there in silence. Reflecting on the meaning of the tree and giving thanks. She prayed. She listened to her tears. Paused. Listened more. Prayed more. Silence and stillness in the midst of this busy season were her friend. There always was a greater purpose to this season. Christmas was so much more than food, gifts and family as good as those are.
She brought down the tree. Everyone knew what the tree represented. Silence overcame the hustle and bustle of food, cooking, welcoming smells, kids, football, loud conversations, laughter and coquito.
“This tree is the roots of our lives” said Israel focusing everyone’s attention as the patriarch of the familia. The tree spoke to the one, “mama”, who taught us about Dios, faith (fe), familia (family), love (amor), Compasión (compassion), justice (justicia), oración (prayer) and care for each other and the other. Papa taught us that care for the least of our brothers and sisters was care and service to God.
Israel, upon seeing the tree, and as the oldest immediately understood. Cindy, he saw, had the Bible. “Mira, everyone it’s time to go. We’ll eat later. Mita is waiting. “David carried the bread for Eucharist. Dennis brought the cup that would hold the blood of Christ. There were no questions, no “yo no voy”. Generations of hungry familia but aside their hunger and put on their coats and got into the car. Kids, as confused as they were, understood something Sacred was happening.
The short drive took us all to the Mausoleum where Mita was laid to rest. As the pastor, I, Justo, gathered the generations of familia who knew and those who have never physically met Mita but know her through the lessons of life that have been imparted to their parents and grandparents. Together, we affirmed the Gospel of Luke that was taught to us as children. We affirmed that familia is great. Food is essential, Gifts are a wonder thing to give and receive but there is so much more.
The meaning of Christmas was celebrated in our communal prayers. Jointly we affirmed the Christ of our lives and salvation. Nicole, Christina and Sara brought up the bread and wine. Together, as a familia we celebrated The Lord’s Supper. We all need bread for the journey and Christ in our lives.
The clear consensus was and is that we are people of profound faith because our parents and grandparents taught us that, “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Porque les ha nacido hoy, en la ciudad de David, un Salvador, que es Cristo (el Mesías) el Señor.”
The understanding that God loved and loves us so profoundly and that Jesus, the Son of God, choose to leave God’s Heavenly Throne to save us is profound. It doesn’t mean we’ve been or are expected to be perfect.
It does mean that we understand that even Santa Claus bows before the majesty of the child savior, the Christ, born to humble parents in humble circumstances. It means that we get it. Christmas is a wonderful jolly time of food, familia y comunidad pero it’s more than that.
Christmas is about a love story! It’s the story of God’s love for you, me, us and everyone. No matter where you are, where you’ve been there is always a divine welcome for you as a son or daughter of God. Been kicked around? God loves you. Been abused? God embraces you. Angry at life and circumstances? God can and will wipe away your tears. Been told you’re worthless? Not true! Never has been and never will be. YOU ARE LOVED! The Christ came to transform lives and to love everyone. You are God’s child and God is your God. Christmas is about the Love of God for You!
Go eat your pernil. Have your coquito. Enjoy your pasteles. Laugh. Love. Live. Give gifts. Receive gifts. Enjoy familia both the one you’re born into and the ones you have created. In all things, however, make it a priority to acknowledge the Christ of Christmas and to accept the love that has been bestowed upon you through grace. Of course, also share that love with others and make sure that you welcome Christ into your hearts and set a place for Christ at your daily table.
Let me close by inviting you to our table. This year our Bilingual Christmas Eve Service, will be at 6 p.m. and have a lively liturgy with a Latino Festive flair. That’s Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013, at 6 p.m. at El Nuevo Camino and Pilgrim – St. Luke’s, 335 Richmond Ave. (corner of west Utica), Buffalo, NY. Cristo te ama y nosotros también. Feliz navidad!