This week, Mariana Schietti in Brazil calls us to celebrate Christ’s birth, not merely with gift exchanges but with lives changed by His Spirit.
Over 210 million people live in Brazil, the largest and most populous country in Latin America. According to a 2010 census, 65% of Brazilians are Catholic, 22% Protestant, and 8% irreligious. Although Brazil has the strongest economy in Latin America and the twelfth largest economy worldwide, unemployment has soared during the pandemic, further widening the wealth gap between rich and poor Brazilians.
Mariana is pursuing a PhD in Theology (Biblical Studies) at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná. Her research explores the divine definition of goodness in Genesis 1, in order to understand Jesus’ call to just, dignified, and harmonious living as part of the Church’s mission. Amid rising political conflict and economic inequality in Brazil, Mariana’s research challenges Christians to pursue the good life according to God’s values.
Since 2017, Mariana has taught online for South American Theological Seminary (SATS), a partner of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative. She is part of SATS’s strategic faculty development plan to invest in outstanding women theologians. Mariana is married to Lucas Mancini Ramos.
Mariana shares the following devotional and prayer requests:
I am Mariana Schietti, and I live with my husband Lucas and our dog Aveia (Oat) in Londrina, Paraná.
About two years ago, I started my doctoral studies here in Brazil. Since then, ScholarLeaders has been supporting and assisting me. I am grateful to God and to all who have been involved in this process.
Christmas in Brazil
This time of year, our hearts are warmed as we remember and celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. He is our God who became human and taught us how to live according to His plan on earth.
In Brazil, we usually decorate our homes with pine trees, flashing lights, colored balls, stars, reindeer, and other objects that remind us of snow and winter. However, this time of year is our summer, so temperatures are high. As schools go on recess, many families often travel to the coast and spend the holiday season on a beach.
On Christmas Eve, we usually eat roasted meats, farofa (fried manioc flour), rice, and potato salad. We also have panettone, a kind of sweet and soft bread with crystallized fruits or chocolate chips.
Another tradition we have is the secret friend game, in which each family member draws the name of someone to whom they will give a gift. On Christmas Eve, each person will describe the characteristics of his or her secret friend for the others to guess. Then the names are revealed and the gifts are given.
Celebrating Christmas with Our Lives
In our country, Christmas brings joy, hope, reconciliation, and the opportunity to gather family members who often spend much time without seeing or speaking to each other. Most importantly, it is a time of prayer, praise, and celebration of Jesus, our Christ.
One of the most special reminders of this day is that the coming of Jesus is not like the arrival of material gifts or blessings. Moreover, it does not impose power over the other, nor it is a symbol of any group’s supremacy. Rather, the arrival of Jesus brings freedom from oppression, exclusion, alienation, and lack of love.
Jesus, being God himself, contradicts all human religious logic. He became a suffering servant who walked among the sick and the poor, who did not condemn or violate the marginalized but approached them, and who reintegrated them into society through his miracles and wonders.
The birth of Jesus must be remembered as the birth of a new Law or as the rebirth of the true Law – the Law of Love, the Law of Communion, the Law of Sharing.
We must remember Philippians 2:1-11:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Living as Christ lived is the greatest way to celebrate Christmas at the end of each year.
I ask my brothers and sisters from around the world to pray that, regardless of our different celebratory customs, we may be united in the same Spirit. Pray that our Christmas can be the celebration of Christ’s birth in our lives every day that we have breath.
I ask for prayers for our country, which will be led by a new president, so that our reality may improve. Pray that Brazilian families can have better lives with access to basic necessities and dignity in a just society.
I ask for prayer for my research, that God may enlighten me and inspire me to see it through.
God bless you all!