Poverty at Christmas
Baby Jesus, when Mary birthed you in Bethlehem, I don’t suppose you noticed that your wardrobe was lacking. You probably only had two changes of clothes, just like little Senna* next door. His mother got pregnant out of wedlock too, you know.
So you were Tchotcho, your mother’s first-born son. At least your parents offered the poor folks’ sacrifice when they presented you in the Temple. Ousmani’s folks did an inexpensive naming ceremony for him too.
Was there a hungry season in Nazareth, Jesus, when you were growing up? Maybe before the barley harvest? Here, it is when we are waiting for the rice to mature. I don’t know how many times Laye has gone to bed hungry. His folks tell him not to cry but to be brave instead. Somehow, I don’t think that helps very much.
Jesus, did you climb in the orange trees to play with your friends too? We can’t get Amara out of them. He eats so many green ones that his tummy starts to hurt. How about You?
Were your sandals always breaking like Abou’s do? He prefers to go barefoot, except that he keeps getting foot sores. What about you? Bet you have scars from boils on your legs too.
What was it like watching your folks’ arranged marriage, Jesus? Did Mary and Joseph learn to love each other the way Mariama and Alsana do? I hope so. Since you are Lord of all, I know you have witnessed the animosity little Mazo sees between his parents.
I’ll bet you looked forward to Passover, Jesus, the way Musa anticipated Id al Fitr (the feast to end Ramadan). It was one of the few times a year when Papa would actually sacrifice a lamb, and everyone could have meat. Normally, it is little fish caught from the river or rice fields. Lately, it has been kamba, plain cooked rice. That probably would have tasted good to you after your wilderness temptations.
When did your folks start sending you to synagogue school? Mouctar started at Koranic school when he was 9. Were you already apprenticed to Joseph as a carpenter by then? It is sad that Boundouka has not passed his trade on to Abdourhamane. That might have helped him to stay out of trouble.
You must have seen death up close early, Jesus. How old were you when Joseph died? Did the wailing frighten you? Isifou was just a young man, maybe 20, when they buried his father. They did not allow him to cry publicly. It is not what men do here, you know. Did you feel the weight of taking care of Mary and Your siblings? Thankfully, Hibou’s uncles have helped him out some. But now, he has lost his mother too.
Baby Jesus, you came in poverty at Christmas. You lived a poor man’s life, ending in a borrowed tomb. In your poverty, you identified with Musa and Amara and Senna. In your death and resurrection, you brought hope to Laye, Mouctar, and Isifou.
Your mother’s song of praise will forever ring true: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. …His mercy extends to those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm. He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful…” (Luke 1:46-54).
*Please note: names have been changed to protect identities.