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Dec 11, 2005

Streets of Gold


It was only four days to Christmas and Pedro was doing last minute shopping in the crowded store, buying presents for people who mostly did not need them. Bored and tired, he pushed his loaded shopping trolley into the queue for the check-out counter, ready for a long wait.

In front of him were two small children, a boy of about six and a younger girl. Wearing ragged clothes and torn shoes they looked pale and hungry. The boy clutched a few dollar notes in his hand, while the girl carried a beautiful pair of gold-coloured slippers.

On finally reaching the check-out desk, the girl carefully placed the precious slippers on the counter, while the sales girl clicked the cash register and said, "That will be $8.50 please." The boy counted the crumpled dollar notes and searched deep into his pockets, but came up with a total of only $5.20. Sadly he said, "Sorry, I guess we will have to put them back."

At this the girl began to sob softly. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes," she cried. Putting his arm around her the boy whispered gently, "Don't cry! We'll find some more money and come back, maybe tomorrow." Quickly Pedro leaned over them and handed $5 to the cashier; after all it was Christmas! Suddenly a pair of small arms came around his leg and a little voice said, "Thank you mister. Mummy will be so happy."

Turning to the little one, Pedro asked, "What did you mean when you said Jesus would love the shoes?"

The boy answered, "Our mummy is very sick and going to heaven. Daddy says she might go before Christmas, to be with Jesus."

The little girl added solemnly, "And my Sunday School teacher says the streets of heaven are paved with gold, just like these shoes. Won't mummy look beautiful as she walks to meet Jesus?"

The teacher had obviously read Rev 21:21. Tears came to Pedro's eyes as he looked into the girl's innocent face and said, "Yes, I'm sure she will."

Set in the midst of mad consumer spending, this simple story says much about the true spirit of Christmas, which is not about expensive presents and sumptuous dinners. It is about the love in our hearts which leads us to share with others, as Jesus came to share himself with us. It is about simplicity and generosity, loving and goodness, caring and sharing.

It is not enough at Christmas to gaze in reverence and awe at the baby in the manger. We need to look beyond the romantic setting, the lights, decorations, colours and scenery, ans ask ourselves what was God trying to tell us in coming among us in such poverty and simplicity - a stable, a manger, animals and shepherds!

Indeed, the manger at Bethlehem contradicts all our fixed ideas about importance, success, protocol and power. If we could really understand what God is saying and if we lived by the Christmas spirit, in our values, priorities and relationships, what a difference it would make our personal lives, our families, our communities and our Church?

Christmas would not be just another glitzy festival, but a truly life-changing and enriching spiritual experience, enabling us to recognise Emmanuel, 'God with us' -- in the ordinary, the unexpected, the familiar. To see Him in the joys and sorrows of daily living and serve Him in the people who accompany us as we journey together towards the "streets of gold".


- Bro. Columba Gleeson

(Bro Columba is a De La Sale Brother who worked in schools in Sarawak from 1958-1987. From 1988-1997, he was the editor of Today's Catholic and was also involved in faith formation and catechetical programmes in the Archdiocese. He now works with the Brothers in Belfast, Northern Ireland.)
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