This year I will be celebrating my 77th Christmas. I come from a relatively large family if you will pardon the pun, and my Christmases as a child were magical. We all gathered at my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve and Christmas. She did almost all the cooking and it was plentiful and delicious. The tree was real and fresh and decorated with those large multi-colored bulbs, hundreds of strands of tinsel and fragile ornaments the dog kept knocking off with a tail wagging with excitement as he welcomed each new guest. Of course dozens of presents surrounded the manger tempting us kiddies to guess what was inside.
As I became a young mother, the magic grew because I saw it through the eyes of my own children. I did my best to replicate the joy that seems only to come at Christmas…that warm feeling this special season brings out in friends and strangers alike. Going to mass on Christmas Eve with all the lovely flowers and lighted trees, with carols sung by the choir that brought tears to the eyes, was always so very special and meaningful. The Christmas spirit was never more palpable then right there in my church.
How different this Christmas is going to be for most of us. It already has been in many ways. My two nieces saw Santa and Mrs. Klaus in a drive-through “visit with Santa”, everyone all masked up to stay safe. I did all my shopping online instead of heading into Chicago to see hundreds of lighted trees and store windows decorated with various Christmas themes. Yes, it will be different and many of us will miss large family gatherings. But I’m so thankful to have had them to miss. And they will be back, hopefully next year.
When I think about that first Christmas, I’m sure it wasn’t the way Mary and Joseph had it planned either. There they were, with Mary ready to give birth, far away from home and family, with not even a room at an inn to afford a decent place to bring God into the world. Talk about hard Christmases, that one really takes the cake–bedded down in a stable with the animals and only a few curious shepherds to visit and pay their respects.
But their child had finally arrived. Mary had given birth, as the Angel Gabriel had announced was God’s plan, to the Son of the Almighty. Her joy and the joy of her husband Joseph must’ve been all-consuming that night. No big celebration or hoopla for the couple. But they had Jesus, their newborn son and the Savior of the world right there in their arms…holding Him, caring for Him. And that’s all they needed. And when you get down to the nitty gritty of it–that’s all any of us really needs to feel the true meaning of Christmas–to hold the Christ Child in our hearts. Not just on Christmas day but every day.
A Merry and a Blessed Christmas to all of you, and a safe, healthy and joyous New Year.