Reflection On A Multicultural Christmas
By Michele Meny, Affiliate Instructor, Neuhoff School of Ministry
Date published: Dec 9, 2019
“His family doesn’t go to midnight mass”, “her family says the entire rosary on Christmas
Eve” or “they eat fish for Christmas!” are just a few of the things I heard regarding
Christmas traditions when I was a parish Family Life Minister. I would always encourage
the engaged couple not to pass judgement but to seek understanding, especially in
regard to cultural differences around Christmas or any holiday. The best way to do
this is to experience the tradition, for it is in the lived experience that we see
Oftentimes in sacred scripture we see the outsider who actually ‘gets’ what the prophets
or Jesus are teaching us. They don’t judge, they seek to understand and respond accordingly.
One such example, relevant to today’s Christmas season, are the magi from Matthew’s
gospel. In her book Sacred Strangers, Nancy Haught points out that the magi are the first strangers who seek Jesus. Their
first gift is actually vision because it is through their eyes that we first see Jesus.
The magi are not Jews, they are outsiders but they are open to the birth of a king
proclaimed by a star! Further, after visiting and understanding that they are in the
presence of the Messiah, they allow their actions to reflect what they experienced—they
go home a different route1.
This model of seeking, understanding and responding will work for us this Christmas
season and all year, when faced with differences, especially in our multicultural
Church. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium tells us “In diversity of peoples who experience the gift of God, each in accordance
with its own culture, the Church expresses her genuine catholicity and shows forth
the beauty of her varied face.”2
This Advent and Christmas season, may our eyes be opened to the beautiful cultural
diversity in our
world and Church. May we seek to find unity among diversity and to learn and experience
other’s traditions so that we see the beauty of the Church and each other and respond
as the magi did.
To learn more about different cultural traditions in the Catholic faith check out
1Haught, N. (2017). Sacred Strangers: What the Bible's Outsiders Can Teach Christians. Collegeville, Minnesota:
2Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s
World: Evangelii gaudium
(November 24, 2013), no. 116