Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holding onto Christmas

Keeping Christmas is not easy.  It is plagued by our endless ability to be distracted by tooth aches and bills, piles of paper and boxes from the early morning feast of giving and the need to go to the grocery store and do all the ordinary things of fallen living.

Yesterday, it was a fight to keep Christmas when the play dough had been opened and merged and decimated in the living room and thus become one with the floor.  The cardboard train had already been tackled, wrestled to the ground and declared DOA.   There were moments when the clutter of life threatened to crowd out the room in the inn, like when all the drawers were open and cascading out with clothing, or when two children created a three foot wide puddle on the carpet using newly acquired buckets to form a brigade from the bathroom sink.  

The temptation to lose Christmas lingered beneath the bad homily of the Children's Christmas eve mass that included a reading of the Three Bears and the story of Peter Rabbit as indicative of how important stories were. 

Below the slush that caked the driveway and needed three children to clear it and in the pile of dishes that included paint water and thus had stained the sink and several dishes an unattractive purple, the world prince lurked to snatch away and devour joy.   Broken toys already and a newly colored wall, all these opportunities for the teeth of the world to bite at the essence of what Christmas is.  But all the world can do is bite away at what Christmas is not, some sort of Martha Stewart perfection, or a zen like state of being indifferent to the trials and toils of the world, it can reveal all our messy broken indulgent neediness, but all that biting illustrates, is our desperate need for the great gift of Christ's birth.

The common phrase now is "Christmas is the greatest story" ever told.  It was used in the fairy tale homily to tie in the children's literature to the children's mass.   I've never liked that description of Christmas, because it implies a "the end." to the event.  While Christmas took place for the first time at some point (5 BC I believe Pope Benedict XVI indicated), it is ongoing.  Christ is ever seeking to be welcomed into our hearts, ever seeking room in the inn.  It will not change the existence of bills or speeding tickets, dental appointments or dust bunnies with bonus piles of ribbons and tape galore, it will merely allow us to endure all these things.  

If we hold the promise of Christ to be true, there is no end to this Christmas love story, to this constant gift.  There is no last Christmas present to unwrap before returning to ordinary time, we cannot exhaust His love, nor can we cease needing it desperately.  

So Merry Christmas! Joy to the World!  Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will! Celebrate this third day of Christmas not be getting back to work or the ordinary, but by holding on to that mysterious reality of the Holy Family in the stable, not letting the world crowd back over the place in the heart we are to keep for Christ, and knowing that if we do even the slightest bit of cooperation on this point; God will make that space for Him ever bigger.  

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