I would be negligent if I didn’t write something about Christmas. The fact is that every year, the holiday overwhelms me. Between the parties, the gifts, the atmosphere, the shopping (both before and after the big day!), the food, the drink, the house full of kids home from school, and everything else that I’ve forgotten to mention, I’m just not inclined to write much of anything.
And yet I have to write something.
Someday, I hope to be able to immerse myself in the spirituality of that Holy Night. When, in the fullness of time, God took upon himself a human nature and made his dwelling among fallen humanity, he did so in the most modest of ways. He was born into the barest of amenities, in a stable, to the wife of a carpenter. Mary and Joseph were not rich, and the census called by Caesar had required them to leave their home and travel to Bethlehem, the city of David, of whose line Joseph was descended.
The Son of God, Jesus, the “true bread from heaven” was born to descendents of David in a town whose name means “house of bread.”
The birth was not without its glory. Indeed, the event was announced by angel choirs, but not to the priests or to the sages of Jerusalem. Rather, the angels appeared to humble shepherds, tending their flocks. And so, the shepherds came to the stable to adore the new born Lamb of God. The found the Lamb, the Bread, the Son, the King, lying in a manger – a feeding trough.
The signs and symbols stagger the imagination. To think that God should come to earth in such a way!
The only gift that really matters at Christmas is the gift that God gave us 2000 years ago by becoming one of us. The circumstances of His birth demonstrate to us that the comforts of life are unnecessary luxuries. It should make us feel foolish for pouting if we didn’t find the gift that we wanted to find under the Christmas tree.
Meanwhile, the mad rush of “the season” continues. All the cheery carols flee from the radio and lopped-off trees stripped naked of ornamentation start to appear at curbside. Retailers try to squeeze the last few holiday pennies from shoppers’ purses while the media turn their attention to recapping the newsworthy stories of the last year and the last decade. The important things rarely make the top-ten lists.
There is so much more that deserves to be written, not just about Christmas, but also about the feasts that follow: St. Stephen, St. John, the Holy Innocents, the Holy Family, the Mother of God, and Epiphany. For me, however, the kids are still home from school, and once I get home from work, it’s family game time. All of the family members that we feasted with last week will gather again to ring in the New Year. I’ll be there in the middle of it, basking in the warm glow of good will, rushing to defuse ill will when siblings start to squabble, and above it all, trying to keep it all in the perspective of the greatest gift of all.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless the New Year!