Today’s prayer for Christmas comes from Rhegan Hyypio, FMS program director and returned missioner who served in Brazil from 2005 to 2007 and Bolivia from 2007 to 2008.

“May we truly hear the cry of the poor, hungry, sick, afflicted and marginalized in our midst this Christmas. And may we respond in love, acting with mercy and justice to help bring about that ‘Silent Night’ and New Creation that we all yearn for. Until that time comes, may God strengthen us to struggle onward for peace and justice.”

Christmas celebration in Brazil, narrated by Rhegan Hyypio of FMS

While Rhegan was on mission in Brazil, the faith community came together for a wonderful Christmas celebration. Children played roles in the Christmas story and Rhegan narrated. Families brought food to share including fresh baked bread. One family even made the nativity scene or creche (which means “crib”), seen in the background of the photo.

The tradition of creche scenes and dramatizations were popularized by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 in an Italian town called Greccio.  He wrote to his friend Giovanni (John) Vellita,“For I wish to recall to memory the little child who was born in Bethlehem. I want to set before our bodily eyes the hardships of his infant needs, how he lay in the manger, how with an ox and ass standing by he lay upon the hay.”

The scene at Greccio was simple: a donkey, an ox and a figure of the baby Jesus laid under an alter in a cave – no Mary, no Joseph, no Magi. 

When the town’s people heard, they lit torches and candles and climbed the hill to the cave for midnight Mass where Francis preached a heartfelt sermon through song. “Francis viewed the celebration as a privilege and spoke of Christmas as a feast of gentleness, humility, generosity and above all poverty,” say the Franciscan Friars, TOR.

The humiliation of the Incarnation overwhelmed Francis, who wanted to emphasize to others “how poor [Jesus] chose to be for our sakes.”

Help us humbly serve others born into poverty through a generous gift this Christmas