Saturday, December 24, 2011
On the morning of the Eve...
Here I sit with cinnamon toast and coffee, I have a long list of things to do and no energy, no desire to do any of them. I had hoped that making many of the gifts we give would put the spirit in my heart, but it ended up just making things crazy in a different way. The gifts, the gifts, it's all about the gifts and that makes me grinchy.
Yesterday I took the three younger children shopping for their dad. They just wanted to get him a tool, something practical. It should have been a quick trip but because it was two days before Christmas it was chaotic, traffic at a standstill, drivers honking angrily at others with the audacity to be in the way. If we could lose the gift-giving, I thought, Christmas would be perfect. But would it? What is a perfect Christmas? The first Christmas wasn't perfect, the Blessed Mother lying in a barn, among the sheep and cows, placing her new infant in a trough. In all our sin-filled humanness we are certainly a lot less likely to get it perfect than the Blessed Mother and her baby God. We grouse at each other, angry at little time and less money to create the perfect Christmas.
Last night Faith and I watched The Nativity Story, a must see for me each year. The film has a lot of foreshadowing and last night I noticed an instance I had not noticed before. When Joseph and Mary are traveling through Jerusalem and notice the selling of sacrificial animals and changing of money outside the temple, Joseph says, "it should be a place of worship" foreshadowing Our Lord's show of temper written about in the Gospels. Also foreshadowing our own greed for the material goods we find necessary to celebrate His birth. Christmas makes us greedy for time and stuff. In the search for the perfect Christmas with worldly things we always come up short.
On the way home from shopping yesterday I pointed out to Joshua and Noah the numerous yard signs advertising various Protestant Christmas services. I commented that Catholic churches would never advertise as we always have our fill on Christmas, and don't those twice-a-year Catholics make us a little crazy? Taking up room in our pews? I was talking to my mother-in-law this morning about the yard signs we noticed and she said that she read that the advertising done by Fellowship churches is a nationwide "phenomenon." Apparently, and I hadn't noticed this, the churches are advertising their Christmas Eve services because there are no Christmas day services. Preachers have said "Christmas is for families" and that's apparently where they will be Christmas morning. It's not about the Holy Family, or Our Lord and Savior, it's about families and the altar under the tree.
No matter how badly we behave, however, Our Lord will come. As a tiny infant, in a dirty stable. He comes because He loves us, no matter how badly we behave and how imperfectly we celebrate. Whether our spirit is in the right place or not, He will come. He comes for the lowly shepherds and the glorious Magi.
In the scene in The Nativity Story when the shepherds arrive at the stable, an old shepherd approaches the Blessed Mother and baby God, and he hesitates, knowing how lowly he is. And Mary says to him, "He comes for all mankind." And so He does. Praise be to God.