Reflection: 23rd December 2018

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

LK 1:39-45 ( )

The best Christmas crib ever!

Once, when I was working in a remote part of Kenya, I got the opportunity to visit Rome. Wandering around the city, I was enthralled to see Christmas cribs with beautifully-carved wooden figures. 'Wouldn't it be wonderful to bring back one crib to Bura-Tana in the Coast Province? The people would be very pleased,' I thought. However, when I looked at the price, I decided that my money would be better spent on helping the people themselves.

I returned in time for ministry during the busy Christmas period, and had an easy time with the homily; I talked about my trip, how I had met Pope John Paul, and how he had sent his special blessings to all the people and particularly the children.

They must have thought that I had had a one-to-one meeting with the pope himself; one catechist said 'The Holy Father knows Fr. Tom and he knows all about us here in Bura-Tana. Isn't it wonderful?'  So, in all the churches, Pope John Paul got a great round of applause and the news spread all through the villages. I didn't have the heart to tell them that my meeting in Rome was in the great hall with thousands of others.

I arrived in a second village for Mid-night Mass; the choir was in full voice. I could hear the drums throbbing as I drove through the empty cotton fields. 

Mama Rose, the chairperson, met me on arrival and helped me run an electric cable from the battery of my truck to the little church.  This would give us power for a 40-watt bulb and would be our main light for the celebrations. We also had plenty of candles whose flickering made the whole place look magical. I was brought to see the crib. I could just see the gleam in Mama Rose’s eyes and how proud she was of the children's crib in an old cardboard box which was lit by a bicycle bulb. She explained how she had gathered the children during the school holidays and how they had made all the figures out of mud which was then dried in the blazing sun. How glad I was, that I had not brought home a crib from Rome. The simple mud crib in this village was the best ever!

Tom Hogan C.S.Sp. – Fr Tom, who is now back in Ireland, spent over 30 years in Kenya where he worked as a teacher and principal with primary and secondary schools, as well as in the area of health promotion.