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A Message for Christmas

Nativity

I recently passed a store window with an elegant Limoges nativity set from France. It was beautiful, and I marveled at the artistry, until I saw the price. I was surprised to see that it was selling for more than $2,000. I had to chuckle when I thought about the disconnect between that luxury store window and the actual nativity. Jesus wasn’t born on Madison Avenue; he was born in the poorest part of town. The truth about Christmas is that God took a great risk being born in a stable, beside farm animals in an occupied country.

Most often, God’s children—with our flawed human nature—are tempted to gloss over hard truths in favor of more comfortable stories. Sometimes it is easier to romanticize past sufferings. But the power of Christmas is not in creating a charming story; it is in remembering  the humble truth of how the Son of God entered this less-than-perfect world. 

Six years ago, Jesuits and the Catholic Church faced another humble truth: For the first time in two centuries we came face to face with many Descendants of Jesuit slaveholding. Suddenly the truth of this history transcended the bookshelves and came to life in the witness of today’s Descendants. I don’t think any of us imagined how God could use this moment to change the course of human history, but with each passing day we can see how God is breathing new life into a growing partnership between Descendants and Jesuits. 

Christmas is a season of birth—the birth of the Messiah, the birth of light with its power over darkness, and the birth of peace amidst human suffering. Each year we welcome the birth of Christ who assures us of God’s presence and action in the world. If we really want to experience the life-changing power of Christmas, we know we can’t relegate it to a store window or a piece of art. We have to respond with great generosity, hope and vision. We also have to honestly ask ourselves what the world that Jesus will be born into looks like. Are we a nation at peace with one another, or are we divided and at odds with each other and our One God?

The Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation is the birth of a new vision for God’s human family. In the face of the tragic history of Jesuit and the Catholic slaveholding, Descendants have chosen to partner with the Jesuits on something new. A foundation that places more emphasis on uplifting people than on constructing buildings, seeks to focus on that which unites us as opposed to that which divides us, and has committed to a 100-year vision of restoring God’s one human family is very bold. Never in U.S. history have the Descendants of the enslaved and the successors of the enslavers come together in such a noble vision. But if we will take the time during this festive season to remember the birth of God’s Son, we can expand our hearts and minds to see how God is giving birth to this new vision for restoring dignity to our human family. We believe that we are giving birth to a new mission that will bring people together after centuries of historic transgressions.

As we prepare for the Coming of Christ this Christmas, let us now prepare for the new and exciting ways that God will enter into our minds and hearts. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation are one clear and certain way that God can enter the world in the new year. Let us open up our hearts to receive this new message. Together, let’s see and embrace the deeper meaning of Christmas.


 

Father Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J

Father Timothy P. Kesicki

President, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States

Father Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J., is the President of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Jesuit Conference promotes common goals and oversees international projects for the Society of Jesus. As Conference President, Fr. Kesicki works with the Jesuit Provincials of the United States and Canada in implementing programs and represents the Conference internationally. Prior to leading the Jesuit Conference, Fr. Kesicki served from 2008 to 2014 as the Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus. From 2000 to 2008, he served as president of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio.