A special letter to Baby Jesus on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Greccio Nativity Scene, the one written by the parish priest of Villaggio Padre Annibale to Santo Bordonaro Don Giuseppe Di Stefanoa social periphery where the parish is a garrison of inclusion, legality, hope, where every day that church with open doors of which Pope Francis speaks is realized.
“Dear Baby Jesus, I am writing to you in the midst of this winter that seems to never want to end. There is a heavy blanket over this old world of ours, a layer of frost that is difficult to scratch and which seems to have immobilized even our hearts. It is hard for us to admit it , but the cold and frost that you experienced the night you came into the world, still grips the earth like a vice. In this time of ours in which everything abounds, we are short of warmth, of tenderness; while the frost of indifference is the master. I am writing to you and I cannot help but feel within me, too, the same desire as Francis of Assisi to see, in some way, with the eyes of the body, the hardships in which you found yourself due to the lack of the things necessary for a newborn; as you were placed in a crib, on the hay, between an ox and a donkey. And I cannot help but repeat that that makeshift bed, prepared as best as possible, is no place for a child who comes into the world Qthat manger is there to remind me that, for you and your family, there was no place to stay. And so it continues to be for many, too many men and women, confined to the margins of society, discarded and massacred by our hunger and thirst for possession and success; lashed and crushed more and more by the weight of our indifference. The Roman poet Trilussa was exactly right when he wrote: People make a nativity scene and don’t hear me; he seeks a more sumptuous phallus, but his heart is cold and indifferent and he doesn’t understand that without love it’s rubbish that has no value.
Yes, the nativity scene. How many memories, how many good feelings she arouses and brings out. But the risk is that everything is reduced to a well-conceived re-enactment, a way to calm our consciences and take us back, nostalgically, to when we were children and hummed sweet songs or committed ourselves to repeating poems and nursery rhymes in front of the older ones. The nativity scene is the frame, but the protagonist is you, Baby Jesus, who with your presence, apparently useless and out of place, makes the difference. You, who can’t do anything but whine. You, who extend your arms to anyone, without fear, without selection, and make us want to bend over you to pick you up and hold you to our chest. You remind us that the first human gesture is precisely the hug, because it is precisely feeling missing and in need of another that saves us. Like children, as soon as they come into the world, they raise their arms almost as if looking for someone. Like the elderly who, before dying, often raise their arms, eager for someone to give them a little warmth and satisfy their hunger for air. And now, excuse me Baby Jesus if I turn my back on you, but I feel that out there, in this night, someone is waiting for me. They are the kids who, to have fun, know no other way than to vandalize what little there is and light a fire to feel grown up and perhaps also, to say – in their own way – how cold they are in their hearts. They, who grew up too quickly, on the road where the law of the strong applies. They, arrogant and angry, to whom we should just give back a little healthy lightheartedness. And together with them I almost hear myself being called by name, from the insistent mumbling of bellies that have remained too empty on this festive evening, from the silent tears of those who celebrate Christmas today without a loved one, from the suffocated screams of a woman who doesn’t have the courage to escape from a controlling husband who never misses an opportunity to insult and beat her. I would like to be able to be next to those who find themselves, at this time of night, having to put the pieces back together, having to deal with an illness that leaves you no escape and the excruciating pain of having to leave those who still need that presence. . And as I turn my back on the nativity scene set up in the church, I still find it among the semi-dark and dirty streets of this neighborhood. And I know that you, Baby Jesus, did not remain there among the statues of Mary, Joseph and the shepherds; but you precede me and push me forward, where someone is just waiting to be hugged so as not to sink into the darkness or is looking for a hand to get back up, because, even if they try hard, it is never enough. You are there, silent companion of those who were tired of waiting, of waiting for you, and just pray that this night passes quickly and that it doesn’t hurt too much. Thank you, Child of Bethlehem, authentic face of love that heals hatred and shatters the cold of indifference. Thank you, Emmanuele, because no matter how much I may distance myself, hide angry and disappointed, you always know where to find me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, flesh of our flesh, born for us, born among us. Thanks for being there. You are with us, on our side. And nothing will ever be the same again.”