Monday, December 21, 2009

Long lay the world,
in sin and error pining,

til He appeared and the soul felt its worth...

One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Holy Night. I prefer the version by Perry Como more than any other I've heard, mostly because I think the depth of his voice best conveys the message of the song.

His singing brings weight to both the sorrow of sin and the great uplifting of hope that comes with the birth of Christ, and it never fails to center me. Forget the candies to make and the cookies too, forget the presents and cards and to-do list that seems to span a mile in length. I can stop for a moment and breathe, with a helpful reminder of what we seek to celebrate.

The girls want to hear Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells. They want to hear the songs with some giddy-up, something they can spin and twirl to. I oblige them, and watch, admonishing them to dance carefully, to watch out for the coffee table and book shelves, while they spin into dizziness. But then I get my turn, and put on O Holy Night, or Christ is Born or Ave Maria.

I love the lights Dave worked so hard to wrap around the bushes in front of our house. I love the ceramic Santa that my mom made so long ago. I love the wreath over our mantel, with its ring of bright apples and hint of Colonial days gone by. I love the childish decorations, snowmen and bears wearing scarves and characters from Winnie the Pooh dressed in their winter clothes.

I love these secular aspects of Christmas too. I just love the other more important part more.

I don't get all the hub-bub over the War Against Christmas. It smacks of something else to me, when people get all up in arms about the greetings we give one another, whether one says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. (I appreciate, however, Fr. James Martin's essay on some companies trying to have it both ways, trying to skirt the line between the secular and faith-filled, with laughable results.) I do understand that occasionally we have instances of political correctness run amok. But I also understand that as a Catholic, Christmas is what I make it for my family. It's the example we set for our children. It's the fact that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and how we conduct our lives to celebrate His love for us. Just like Perry sings in O Holy Night. How someone addresses me, or a how a store decorates for the holidays, has no bearing on my own feelings, and what I hope to teach my children about the meaning of Christmas.

So far, they're still all about the presents, and so far, I'm still feeding into that far too much. It's an ongoing process. But on our mantel, we have a creche from Haiti. It was the girls' idea to put baby Jesus in a gift box, and set Him between Joseph and Mary. On Christmas morning, we'll open the box. The best present is saved for last.

However you celebrate, I hope it's lovely. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Here's wishing you a 2010 filled with peace, happiness and faith.


Meredith said...

Merry Christmas to you, Dave, Hannah, and Lily. May it be blessed!