In the days and weeks before Christmas, many people worry about what they are going to give their relations and friends as a gift. They search through catalogues and magazines, they trek wearily through the shops and stores until they find the right present. Most of the time we are looking for things that cost money, some expensive, some cheaper. What would it be like if we could also give each other a gift for Christmas, that you cannot buy with money? Something special, something truly original – something that brings us hope, joy and peace! I hope and pray that this Christmas story can be a little like such an “unbuyable” gift. It is called “The King with the Empty Hands”. “It happened in large city. A few young people had got together and planned to put on a Nativity Play. Very soon lots of people became involved: Someone wrote the script, others practiced eagerly, scenes and backdrops were made and painted, and a few mothers made the costumes. However, the evening before the first performance, something quite unusual and unfortunate happened – they had all forgotten about the parts of the Three Kings. They couldn’t just leave them out altogether. The Kings simply belong to the Nativity Story. The Director of the play had an idea. He would telephone three people from the neighbourhood and ask them if they wouldn’t mind standing in as one of the Three Kings. They should just bring a personal gift with them for the Child in the Manger – a gift, that means something special to them. The first “king” was found quite soon. He was a man, aged fifty years, with five children and he worked for the Town Hall. He didn’t have to think too long about what gift he would like to bring. He brought along the crutches, that had been lying in the loft. Years ago, he had had a serious car accident and for weeks he had to stay in hospital after a long operation. It had been a very difficult time for him, as after the accident, it wasn’t so clear if he would ever walk again. Day after day and night after night, he would lie in his bed and think about his life. He became thankful for all the little things around him. This experience had changed him completely and he wanted to say this as he brought these crutches to the Manger. The next “king” was actually a queen. A young mother of two children. She had thought long and hard about what gift she could bring to the Christ Child. There wasn’t one single, great and memorable episode that she would like to remember. It was more a long and gradual process in her own life that was important to her. This was when she had to get used to her roll as a mother and wife. She enjoyed her job and the people she got to know through her work. After her marriage a deep hole started to form all around her. Then the children came along and she realized that self-pity was not the answer she needed. She took an interest in different things and got involved in the offers around her. She began to understand that bringing up children in a loving family atmosphere wasn’t something secondary or worthless, but had a deep and lasting meaning for a better world. What could she bring to the Manger to express all this? A sweeping brush? Nappies? In the end she decided on something that no-one could see, but was alive in her like never before in her life. Her gift was the “yes” of her Wedding Day! That is what she wanted to bring along – a new and more convinced “yes”. A “yes” to the life that she had freely chosen, a “yes” to her husband and her children. The third king was something completely different. A seventeen year old had offered to take part in the Play. He had sat for hours and hours in his room and couldn’t make up his mind what he should bring to the New-Born King. He found only a bit of confusion in himself, a bit of searching, a bit of doubt, a bit of loneliness – a bit of yearning for something, for someone? He wasn’t so sure himself. In fact, he knew that he didn’t have anything really worth bringing. His hands were empty. His heart was just full of a kind of sadness and a longing to be happy and fulfilled and to understand the meaning of his own life. And who wants to make sadness and longing a gift for anyone? Then the thought came to him. If the Christ Child is born again so that he can bring us something, then it would be alright that our hands are empty and our hearts open wide for his peace and healing. Wouldn’t it be possible that he just come as a king with empty hands? The question didn’t give him any rest. And who knows, when in a few years time, the Christmas Story is produced again, then perhaps this same young man will be there – as the king with the empty hands.” Isn’t it true that each and every one of us could be the “king with the empty hands”. Perhaps this thought can help us make this Christmas a deep and lasting experience of the great love of God, our Father, who sends again his only Son to save and heal our world. Let us open our hearts wide for the Birth of Jesus and together as a Family of families in the Covenant of Love, bend our knees in adoration before the Child in the Manger. And when we look at our Crib in the Shrine Room and take in the peace and the calmness of the Stable of Bethlehem, and when we look at the happiness in Mary’s face and the pride and gratitude in Joseph’s eyes, then if we are courageous enough, we can silently put ourselves at the side of the Three Kings, and stand there with “empty hands” and with such longing in our hearts. The Holy Child will smile at us and bless us and we will walk away with inner peace and joy. We know that we will never be the same again. The miracle of Christmas is here!
WE WISH YOU A VERY HAPPY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS!
MAY THE NEW-BORN SAVIOUR BLESS YOU IN THE NEW YEAR 2016
YOUR SCHOENSTATT FATHERS