By Tess Wahlmeier
LINCOLN (SNR) — It’s easy to get wrapped up in the festivities of Christmastime, the shopping, the baking, the cleaning, but a great way to slow down and remember the focus of Christmas comes in the form of a little baby. A little Baby Jesus, of course.
Families are invited to the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln Saturday, Dec. 19 to “Bless the Baby Jesus.” Children can bring the baby Jesus figures from their nativity scenes to have them blessed by Bishop Conley and attend a cookie reception afterwards.
The bishop will also give a small children’s Liturgy of the Word, focusing on the coming of Jesus and what should be anticipated in those final days leading up to Christmas. “Bless the Baby Jesus” will begin at 10 a.m. in the church, and the reception with Bishop Conley will follow downstairs in Rectors’ Hall.
The blessing of Baby Jesus comes from a tradition that the Holy Father still carries out today. Every year, usually on the third Sunday of Advent, the pope celebrates “Bambinelli Sunday” and invites families to gather in St. Peter’s Square, bringing the Baby Jesus figures from their nativity sets, and celebrating children, Christmas, and the Christ Child.
Pope Benedict said: “The blessing of the “Bambinelli” [Baby Jesus figurines] as they are called in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St. Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and, especially, they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. And the shepherds? What did they have to rejoice about? That Newborn Infant was not to change their condition of poverty and marginalization. But faith helped them recognize the ‘babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’ as a ‘sign’ of the fulfilment of God’s promises for all human beings, ‘with whom he is pleased’ (Lk 2: 12, 14).”
Emily Villa of Cathedral Parish, organizer of Bless the Baby Jesus event and mother of nine, said “Bless the Baby Jesus” has become an Advent tradition, not only for their family, but for others in the community as well.
“It always falls in that perfect time of the hustle and bustle, when the wrapping and the last-minute Christmas shopping and baking and all of that starts to just eat away at the peace that you wish you had during Advent,” she said. “It’s a Saturday morning, and maybe you think that you should be getting some other things done and check them off your list, but if you take that time to go be with the bishop and be with other families - and just to see the children sitting in the pew, holding their little tiny baby Jesus, waiting to walk up and have him blessed - it is so precious.”
Each year at Bless the Baby Jesus, children have the opportunity to give to the Christ child through other babies in need. A bassinette is filled with donations of diapers, blankets, new or gently used clothes, etc. and taken to Birthright in Lincoln.
“I think some families really appreciate the opportunity to do something tangible, and help their children to give before they receive,” Villa said. “There’s something really sweet and innocent about children putting baby clothes or a baby blanket into the bassinette, and it’s amazing how much they do connect that experience of providing for a little baby, and then the story of a little baby being born into poverty in the manger, I think they get that.
“They understand that they can have a part in welcoming the baby into the world, and they just did that, they gave him a blanket,” she said.
All are welcome to “Bless the Baby Jesus” at the Cathedral Dec. 19 at 10 a.m.