By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 22, 2022
A small boy emerged from the crowd and approached us. He had black hair, olive skin and big, luminescent brown eyes. We were standing at the back of the church on Christmas Eve, because we hadn’t realized how crowded the Mass would be. One of us—my late husband—was a non-Catholic and the other—yours truly–was a lapsed Catholic, who hadn’t attended Mass in decades, which explains our overlooking this obvious fact.
The boy gestured to us and we followed him to a pew near the front of the church. With a big smile, he indicated we should take our seats there. We figured these seats, for some reason, had been unspoken for—and we thanked him profusely. I couldn’t help but wonder whether this little gift might be God’s way of welcoming us to Christmas Mass.
I looked around to see where the boy was sitting, but couldn’t find him in the pews—and then spotted him, standing with others who had no seats. Then it hit me—this lovely boy had sacrificed his space for us!
“What child is this?” The congregation sang, and I was moved by a thought not easily dismissed. The little boy with dark hair and shining eyes reminded me of someone, but who?
Many years later, my husband was received into the Catholic Church, and I became a full-fledged member once again. We were blessed to meet some of Mother Teresa’s sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, who’d been sent to Atlanta to open a home for poor women with AIDS. They needed volunteers to help renovate a ramshackle house, which would eventually be called the Gift of Grace.
Every weekend we dressed in work clothes, packed tools and spent hours helping the sisters. We also prayed with them and especially treasured adoration in their small, spotless chapel that always sported fresh flowers and prayer requests on the blackboard.
One day a young mother joined us, accompanied by a toddler, wearing a shirt and corduroy pants. After we’d recited the rosary and were sitting in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, the little fellow became restless and began wandering around the chapel.
His corduroy pants brushed against his legs, and the “swish, swish” sounds thundered through the well of silence. I wondered if the sisters would find this troublesome, but after adoration, when the mother apologized profusely for the disruption, a sister assured her tenderly: “Jesus loves the little children.”
Jesus comes to us at Christmas as a sweet baby, then becomes a little boy in the Gospels. As an adult, he invited children to gather around him, even when the apostles wanted to send them away. Anyone who gives a child a glass of water would be rewarded, he said. And anyone who harmed a child should receive the worst punishment imaginable. As for the way to Heaven, he said we must change our hearts and become open and trusting like children.
Every year at Christmas, my heart returns to memories of the boy who sacrificed his seat for us, and the little fellow in his corduroy pants. Choirs still sing: “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”
It has taken me so long to know who these children were and who every child in the world is. The Christ Child, born over and over in their hearts, down through the centuries! Sweet, innocent, trusting, the little ones remind us of the Father’s love for us, since we are all his children.
Christmas beckons us to renewed love for every baby, every child God has placed in our lives. No matter how poor, how humble, how small, these are God’s special ones. In the words of the hymn, “This is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing!”
Artwork is an oil painting, created by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef. Her email address is email@example.com.