A Christmas tree of “invincibility” has been installed on St. Sophia Square in the Ukrainian capital ok Kyiv. The tree is 12 meters high and “decorated with generator powered energy-saving lights” A charging point installed near the generator is there for people to charge their phones and once Christmas passes, the company that provided the generator will donate it to the Ukrainian armed forces. The decorations, funded 100% from local businesses, include 1,000 toys, blue and yellow baubles and 500 donated white doves. The topper, patriotically, will be a Ukrainian coat of arms.   Flags of countries “that help Kyiv cope with the challenges and consequences” of the war will be placed around the base. Trees installed across the city also have generators. The mayor said “We cannot let Putin steal Christmas!”

The spirit of the Ukrainian people cannot be conquered, in spite of the fact that for almost 10 months the Russians have destroyed so much of their country, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of deaths on both sides and Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. An estimated 8 million people were displaced within the country by late May as well as 7.8 million Ukrainians fleeing the country as of 8 November 2022.  Now it is winter in Ukraine when so many persons have lost both electricity and water in their homes and have had to seek refuge in underground metro stations and other places provided by the government.

This is perhaps the most dramatic event of the year 2022 but at the same time there are millions all over the world who are suffering from the effects of war, other forms of violence and abuse, persecution, hunger, discrimination, homelessness, unemployment, to mention just a few of the momentous problems people are facing.  It is now, perhaps more than ever, that we need a Savior who can restore hope to the hopeless, faith to the despairing and unconditional love to those who feel rejected, alone and not knowing where to turn next.

In trying to make sense of the suffering in our world and the peace and joy which should be ours even in the midst of trauma, I was drawn to a meditation of Karl Rahner on the meaning of Christmas and want to share some of his reflections. *Rahner notes: “God has spoken into our world his deepest and most beautiful word in the Incarnate Word, a word that can no longer be revoked because it is God’s definitive deed, because it is God himself in the world. And this word means: I love you, the world and human beings.”

Because God has become human, the eternal Word of God himself, this world and its final destiny concern him.  He himself is now within the world.  “What is expected of us is now expected of him… our earthly joy as well as the wretchedness that is proper to us…. He himself is on our very earth where he is no better off than we, where he receives no special privilege but our very fate: hunger, weariness, enmity, mortal terror and a wretched death. That the infinity of God should take upon itself human narrowness, the bliss should accept the mortal sorrow of the earth,  that life should take on death – this is the most unlikely truth. But only this– the obscure light of faith- makes our nights bright, only this makes them holy.”

“The celebration of Christmas can only be the echo of that word in the depth of our being by which we speak a believing amen to God’s word that has come…into the narrowness of this world and yet has not ceased to be the word of God’s truth and the world of his own blissful love. When not only the glimmer of candles, the joy of Children and the fragrance of the Christmas tree but the heart itself answers God’s childlike word of love with a gracious yes, then Christmas really takes place  not only in mood but in the most (pure) reality. For this word of the heart is then truly produced by God’s holy grace; God’s word is then born in our heart too.  God himself then moves into our heart, just as he moved into the world in Bethlehem …and yet even more intimately.  When the heart itself answers, …God comes and takes possession of our hearts, just as in the first Christmas he came and took possession of the world.” 

And now he says to us what he has already said to the world as a whole through his grace-filled birth: “I am there. I am with you.  I am your life.”… “My love is unconquerable.  I am there. It is Christmas.  Light the candles.  They have more right to exist than all the darkness.  It is Christmas, Christmas that lasts forever.”  “Rejoice, the Lord is with you!”

I end with a few lines from one of my favorite Christmas Carols:  It speaks to me of the

call to believe even when there are no clear signs of the presence of God in our life.


“God supreme I know thee, on a little straw;
and I bow before thee filled with reverent awe.
Lord I need not see your splendor,
faith has told the tale most tender,
of your love for me.”   
Alice Reddy RSCJ


*Christmas: “Ever since I became your Brother” by Karl Rahner from The Eternal Year, 19-26


                                                                                               Reflection by Nancy Koke RSCJ



  1. This reflection of Nancy’s and the thoughts of Karl Rahner reduced me to tears, especially Nancy”s description of the huge Christmas tree all decorated with lights and the chance to recharge their phones to those having to live without heat or light or water. I still cannot read it without weeping.

  2. Nancy, reading this reflection makes me reflect on the many opportunities I have to thank God. i am strengthened with the phrase “call to believe even when there are no clear signs of the presence of God in our life”. Thank you for sharing.


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