Christmas Reflection: God Works through All Kinds of People

by Melannie Svoboda SND on December 24, 2018

The story of the first Christmas sets before us an array of unique individuals. First, there is Mary, a teenage mother. Then there is Joseph, her conscientious husband, a simple carpenter.

Next, we have a powerful Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who orders all the people in his vast empire to be counted. Why? Probably because he senses he is not receiving all the tax money that legally belongs to him. Perhaps too his inflated ego is curious to know exactly how many people are under his absolute rule. Because of his edict, Mary and Joseph are forced to make the journey to Bethlehem, a trip of about 90 miles. What makes this journey such a hardship is the fact that Mary is nine months pregnant. At this critical time in her pregnancy, she will be deprived of her family and women friends who could have helped her to deliver her baby. Mary and Joseph’s lives, like so many of our own lives, are subject to political forces and historical movements beyond their control.

Other individuals are part of the story of the first Christmas. There’s the innkeeper whose inn was filled, but perhaps he was the one who directed them to the stable. Then there’s a bevy of angels who announce Jesus’ birth to a band of hard-working shepherds. Soon a trio of star-gazers enter the story bearing precious gifts for this newborn king. A little later, Mary and Joseph will encounter two other holy people when they present their newborn in the Temple: Simeon and Anna. These elderly individuals, who realize the significance of the child before them, have important speaking roles in the Christmas story.

Another person plays a vital role in Jesus’ early life: Herod, the megalomaniacal King of Judea. By all accounts, he was a very nasty person even before Jesus was born. He had his potential rivals murdered (including a number of family members) in order to secure his power. Once he hears the Magi talk about the birth of a new king, he mercilessly orders the slaughter of all the little boys under two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.

And last, but certainly not least, is the central character in the Christmas story: the baby…Jesus!

One important lesson we can learn from the array of characters in the Christmas story is this: God can—and does—work through all kinds of people to bring about good. All kinds of people. The young and the old, the simple and sophisticated, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the helpless, the humble and the arrogant, the saint and the sinner. Incredibly, each person in this story plays a role in the history of salvation. Some did it through their love, goodness, generosity, and holiness; others did it through their hatred, evil, selfishness, and sinfulness.

The amazing fact is that God can use everyone to bring about God’s plan, to bring about God’s goodness—even you, even me. A question to reflect on this Christmas is this: Where am I in the Christmas story for 2018? What role am I playing to bring about God’s plan in today’s world? How am I partnering with God to bring about goodness in 2018 and into 2019?

In Romans we read: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). Isn’t that some of the best news in the entire Good News? It makes me want to burst into song… and to sing to each one of you:

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Speaking of bursting into song, I offer you two wonderful songs today. The first is Mannheim Steamroller”s incredible version of “Joy to the World.” The second is “Little Drummer Boy” performed live by the Christian rock group, “for King & Country.” Turn up the speakers (unless someone in your house is sleeping right now!)

Here’s a unique take on “Little Drummer Boy.”

I would love to hear what you think of the reflection and the songs.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Johnson December 24, 2018 at 5:52 am

Sister Melannie,
Odd that after reading your blog the title of an old western movie came to mind…..”The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” As you pointed out, all part of God’s hand working in the midst of humanity. I shall try to be more aware of that very thing as I move through the Christmas season and into the new year and beyond. I was very taken with last week’s post “Love Poems From God.” I purchased a copy for my wife for Christmas, of course with the hope and expectation that she will willingly share with me (she is a most generous person)! Thank you for your Christmas gift to us this week, and Merry Christmas and God’s Blessings to you!
Ed

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Denise December 24, 2018 at 7:20 am

Sr. Melanie,
It’s a most difficult challenge to look for the hand of God in all matters…right up there with loving others as myself. It’s one I’ve committed myself to nonetheless and begin each morning in grateful prayer and let Him take it from there. Merry Christmas and Peace.

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John Hopkins December 24, 2018 at 7:47 am

Merry Christmas Eve (day), Melannie!

A beautiful meditation as to how God can work through all and everybody to bring about his plan — even the “bad guys.”

Here’s a thought about Joseph: Steeped in the religious tradition of his day, he nevertheless intuited — listened to the better angels of his conscience — to stay with Mary and form what some might call a very “irregular union.”

May God bless us all!

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Annette December 24, 2018 at 7:55 am

Beautiful! Merry Christmas Sister! Joy and Peace to you!

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Pat Conron December 24, 2018 at 8:01 am

Christmas Blessings Melanie!
One of the gifts of 2019 will be the Women’s Retrear Cruise! Looking forward to that very special time. Thank you so much!

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Kathleen Magiera December 24, 2018 at 8:13 am

Merry, Merry Christmas Sr. Melannie!

Thanks for that beautiful reminder that God uses all of us to accomplish good. Sometimes in the rush of Christmas, I am not always my best self and like the innkeeper just react to the situation in front of me rather then think it through more carefully.

God be with you.

Kathleen

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Pete December 24, 2018 at 8:28 am

Wow! What a great version of “Drummer Boy”. A little different version than the one my choir will be singing tonite! Well done.

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Jean Canatsey December 24, 2018 at 9:18 am

I agree with Pete. What a great version of “Little Drummer Boy” and so very different from the version we will be using tonight. It makes me think of Christmas Eve 1998. My husband had a stroke that morning but I am a music director and was committed to a 5pm service and Midnight Mass. Our youngest daughter, Sarah, had agreed to play her snare drum for “Little Drummer Boy” at each service. I just realized that she was Jesus to me that evening. She walked with me as we wandered together in an alternate universe but still praising God in music and thanking Him for coming.
Twenty years later my husband is still walking beside me and I am still praising the Lord in music. Merry Christmas, Sr. Melannie, and thank you for your Monday morning gift!

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Beverly Palumbo, RSM December 24, 2018 at 9:23 am

Thanks, Sister Melanie, for so consistently birthing the Christ into our world. Blessed Christmas and Peace-filled New Year. Beverly Palumbo, RSM (Merion, PA)

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Cara Garofalo, OSF December 24, 2018 at 9:49 am

Hello Sr. Melannie! Your reflection helped me realize anew that God can use all for good, including the “bad and the ugly.” Thanks for inspiring hope this day. I enjoyed both songs. Thanks and a happy and blessed Christmas and New Year.

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Mary Ellen Haefner December 24, 2018 at 9:58 am

Right on point and really helped me discern and also ask tough questions about where am I today and through tomorrow and 12 days of Christmas, as well as my role and partnerships.

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Herb December 24, 2018 at 10:20 am

Sister Melanie Have a Blessed Christmas & New Year Thanks for a wonderful year

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Patty Sprofera December 24, 2018 at 10:26 am

Christmas Blessings. Sister.

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Mary December 24, 2018 at 10:34 am

Merry Christmas Sister Melanie! Your reflection on how we are all part of the salvation plan is awesome. The Little Dummer Boy is my favourite Christmas Carol. This is probably the most beautiful rendition yet! My sister had sent it to me last week and said enjoy your favourite tune to this beat! Thank you!

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Jean December 24, 2018 at 11:08 am

Merry Christmas Sister Melannie.
Thank you for all you do!

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Liz Grabowski December 24, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Merry Christmas, Sister Melanie,
Missing Chardon, raining and foggy in SF today.
Thank you for your weekly words of inspiration, my Monday morning read on the way to work.
I wish you health, happiness and peace in the New Year,

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Mary A Schneider December 24, 2018 at 3:39 pm

A very Holy Christmas Sr. Melannie. I have never heard that particular rendition of Little Drummer Boy and I loved it! Thank you for your wonderful reflections throughout the entire years.

Mary S

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Theresa December 24, 2018 at 10:29 pm

Merry Christmas Eve Sister.

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Michelle December 25, 2018 at 8:18 am

Sr. Melanie, I’ m not at all THINKING! I am, from my thin hair to my toenails, am FEELING SMILING and SHARING with whoever will catch this thrill throh facebook and a few direct e’messages ….God bless you and all your loved ones ★♥ Michelle

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carol December 25, 2018 at 10:08 am

Merry Christmas Sr. Melannie,
You surprise me over and over
with your messages,
and your music. Blessings!

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John Schroeder December 25, 2018 at 9:53 am

Wonderful reflection, Sister…and an awesome version of “Little Drummer Boy”, too.

But I have to say, I’m writing here because I was so deeply blessed to read what you had written elsewhere…

Your prose-poem “And The Word Became Flesh “ in Give Us This Day is mind-boggling and breathtaking and profoundly mystical! Such a gift, to read it this Christmas morning…especially after having cradled my infant grandson during Christmas carols at our family celebration last evening!

I could see Christ in little Jonah. I could feel Christ in the little one’s gentle breathing. I believed I could encounter Christ, too, in my grandson’s trusting helplessness. And your awesome reflection only deepened my experience and fond memories of this Incarnation blessing.

Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world. Merry Christmas!

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