A Christmas Message from Sr Monica

22 December 2016 | General Interest

Born in a stable in Bethlehem. Born in a stable in Penola.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas I am drawn to reflect on the symbol of the "stable" as the birthing place of Jesus.  Mary and Joseph were confronted with the reality that there was no room in the inn.  All the inn keeper was able to provide was a stable.  Here in the midst of the stillness of the evening, the divine spark of God's love burst forth in human form into our world.  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Stable PenolaIn 1866 in the town of Penola, another "stable" was to become the birthing place of the Sisters of St Joseph. In this place, Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods gave birth to another dream which would influence the lives of thousands of children in Australia and beyond through the gift of education. Here in this place, the creative energy of God poured forth into this small community the seed of possibility.

These two "stables", the one in Bethlehem and the one in Penola, call us to ponder the humble circumstances from which new life emerges.  From this place of vulnerability, Mary and Joseph simply trusted that God who had led them to Bethlehem would be with them as they nurtured the life of the newborn Jesus.  At that moment, they had no idea what the future would hold. Likewise for Julian and Mary in Penola, they were called into an unknown future. They simply wondered who God would send to assist.  The symbol of "stable" breaks open the unfolding mystery of trust in the providence of God.

Bethlehem StableThis Christmas, the symbol of the stable invites us to look across our world and see the new  "stables". These are the refugee tents and campsites that have become the new Bethlehem, where so often thousands of refugees like Joseph and Mary hear the words, "there is no room in the inn".  In this vulnerable moment, they simply trust that a 'new shoot will spring forth', and that their cries will not go unnoticed. They hold onto a belief that the dawn will follow the night and in the darkness of the night life is born.

I pause and ponder that "stable" place in my own life, that humble place where the God of surprises stretches me beyond the familiar and the known and births within me the seeds of love.

God's reign of love opens me to see the world from the perspective of those who find shelter in the "stables" of today's world.  From here I send forth a blessing of peace, a blessing of love. As we gather around the newborn faces of this time, as we kneel in gratitude held in the wonder and the heartache of this Christmas season, I ask myself;

  • who will share in my "stable" space this Christmas?
  • whose lives will be touched by our simple gestures of outreach and compassion?

Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj
Congregational Leader