We have chosen for our Christmas and New Year reflection this year, the theme of Christmas Crib and the surprises of God in turbulent times. Our bearing is from the two separate Christmas Messages of Pope Francis to the Roman Curia and the families of Vatican employees respectively, which the Pope gave on December 21, 2018 in the Vatican. Drawing our attention to the significance of Christian hope and courage embodied in the message of the Nativity scene (Christmas Crib), Pope Francis said:
“Dear brothers and sisters, this year, in our turbulent world… we are also experiencing a new age of martyrs. It seems that the cruel and vicious persecution of the Roman Empire has not yet ended. A new Nero is always being born to oppress believers solely because of their faith in Christ. New extremist groups spring up and target churches, places of worship, ministers and members of the faithful. Cabals and cliques new and old live by feeding on hatred and hostility to Christ, the Church and believers. How many Christians even now bear the burden of persecution, marginalization, discrimination and injustice throughout our world. Yet they continue courageously to embrace death rather than deny Christ. How difficult it is, even today, freely to practice the faith in all those parts of the world where religious freedom and freedom of conscience do not exist.” (Pope Francis, ‘Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia’, 21 December 2018).
There is no-gain-saying the fact that the above citation from Pope Francis’ Christmas Message and Greetings to the Roman Curia, reflects the critical situation in which many people and nations, especially, our troubled African nation states, like my country Nigeria and elsewhere, found themselves today. However, the fragile image of the Infant Jesus born in the Manger and the joy of all other characters in that Nativity scene of Bethlehem, reminds us that it is in a critical situation and turbulent time like ours today, the message of Christmas shines out clearly. It is in his humility and fragility that God reveals to us his saving power, mercy and love.
As St. Paul tells us, ‘in God’s weakness is our strength.’ These are the surprises of God, which we celebrate at Christmas. They are the surprises of God our Christmas Cribs, in churches, public places and homes, try to recapture and depict in an artistic representation. Christmas Crib tells us not to