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Day 13: Simplicity

Advent Blog Headers 2023 (14)

Editor’s Note: For day 13 of our Advent series,  “The Day of Joy Drew Near,” missioner Julia Pinto contemplates the simplicity of Jesus’ Nativity and tells the story of a simple yet meaningful encounter.

God, I don’t get it.. Why a barn in some far-off village? Why not have the King of the universe born in a castle, into wealth and splendor? 

Because we might get lost in the grandeur and miss the point. 

We don’t worship you because you arrived here in royal majesty. We praise you because you yourself are the treasure – of more value than all the riches and fame this world could offer. 

You choose to reveal yourself in simplicity, hidden from the glare of the cameras and buzz of the masses.

This Christmas, we have ads blaring the latest steals and styles; that first Christmas, you had angels proclaiming the good news to shepherds out in the fields. 

We have fresh-baked cookies and carols; you had the smells and sounds of farm animals.

We have bright, dazzling lights everywhere; you had only the stars of the night sky.

You obviously don’t despise simple means, so neither should I. 

Let’s not miss the beauty of the manger in the midst of the holiday parties and consumerism, blinding lights and deals, commotion and gift exchanges. If others, like me, are searching for God and the real beauty of Christ’s birth, don’t look at the exciting, the loud, the chaotic. Seek out some humble, simple, interaction with a person living on the margins of society and look for how Jesus makes the manger come alive for you.

This Christmas, I’m thinking of a man with the initials CJ whom we served at the emergency shelter for asylum-seekers in Douglas, Arizona. I was sitting on the front steps to take a break from the exhausting work of mopping the spacious Catholic church hall we now call a shelter when he came outside and sat on the step beside me. 

He is from a small town outside of Guatemala City. CJ had to quit school at a young age to help his father on the family farm. Even without traditional schooling, he is clearly intelligent, learning how to drive the family’s manual transmission tractor by simply watching his dad.

CJ and I are about the same age. We chatted in Spanish about city living in the US, the climate in Douglas versus his hometown in Guatemala, his future plans, my thoughts of living in another country one day, and how we both feel distant from our older brother. 

I will most likely never see him again. There was no endgame to our conversation, but in that one simple interaction—a moment of encounter and accompaniment—I remembered the good in humanity through CJ’s desire to make many sacrifices and endure hardships just to provide for his family back home in Guatemala. He revealed to me God’s extravagant love for us more than any material gift that I could give or receive.

A young man of color, with very little means, who comes from an obscure town, and is wandering in unknown places… Sounds a lot like Jesus to me.

Question for Reflection: How can you encounter Jesus in the simple moments of this Christmas season?

The front doorsteps to the Catholic church hall turned makeshift emergency shelter for asylum-seekers released by Border Patrol in Douglas, Arizona.

Julia graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas in May 2015 with a BS in Mathematics and a Math Teacher Certification at the ripe age of 20. She taught Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus and Statistics for four years in a public high school in Richardson, Texas, as well as another year in a private school in Takoma Park, Maryland. Julia’s desire to serve and minister like St. Francis drew her to Washington D.C. to work as a Publications and Communications Associate with the US Catholic Mission Association through the DC Service Corps program, where she researched and helped support various mission organizations around the world. This call to mission now pushes Julia to venture beyond D.C. to serve as a missioner on the US-Mexico border. In her free time, Julia enjoys reading, working out, dancing, meeting strangers, and solving all kinds of puzzles.