Preparing for Christmas
Monday, December 12, 2011
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste, to a town in Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
In her feminine, pregnant, God-enhanced prescience, Mary turned toward another woman for comfort and companionship. Over the river and through the woods, she journeyed as quickly as she could to the home of the other blessed pregnant woman in the family, the blossoming mother of John, who even in the womb finds himself preparing the way of the Lord.
They blush and laugh and rush toward each other in joy. What a moment to share their secrets and their fears, and their experiences with Gabriel and their God. The births of John and Jesus are just a few short weeks away, and they are getting ready for their big days …
And we are getting ready too, rushing here and there preparing for Christmas, celebrating friendships and friends, doing parties and throwing parties, enjoying the tinsel and lights. It is the Monday of the week before the week before Christmas, time to get serious about taking this season seriously. Everywhere around us are opportunities not so graciously present during the rest of the year - to smile, to share, to receive.
For the few weeks before Christmas, more people are more open with their stories, their emotions, and their pocketbooks – and we can all love each other better that way.
Lying in bed before church yesterday morning with a Motorola Xoom (I’m one of the few tablet owners with something other than an Ipad, and I love it), I skimmed through Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. Two articles I want to share with you. Celebrating Christmas in Moscow many years ago, and in downtown Philadelphia a week ago, two writers learned again just how much they needed from others.
Charles Madigan, living in Moscow in 1977, is among …
the first to admit I am not a very determined Christian. At the same time, Roman Catholicism molded my young life. I knew the Christmas season the way an accountant knows numbers.
It was like getting a sweet kiss when you most needed it.
To me, the run-up of Advent with its solemnity and powerful messages were the best part of Catholicism and then, Ka-boom! There\'s Jesus! Surrounded by gold and incense at midnight Mass with a full choir and glorious music, it was the best of birthday parties.
I needed that sweet kiss of Christmas in Moscow. I could not find it and I felt that year as though my soul were draining out of a hole in my shoe.
And here is the rest of the story:
Dean Johnson met a girl, not so much different I think from Mary, except that she made different choices, received indifferent support, and settled into the streets of Philadelphia while her parents parented four children born to her and a variety of awfully absent fathers. Dean and his wife met his neighbor, become before his eyes the little match-girl. She knew him, and he knew her:
All I wanted to do was take my wife on a leisurely Sunday stroll along the city sidewalks, the busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style … If you listened, really listened, you could hear, above all the bustle, the bells from hansom carriages passing nearby.
As we walked, a young woman, sitting on the sidewalk, with a small suitcase and what appeared to be rolled-up bedclothes by her side, asked in a frail voice if we could spare some change … As we passed her, I heard a faint voice say the name of the small, suburban town where I live. My wife and I turned around.
There sat a young girl we knew. She had lived a few houses up the street from us. We had known her for years. It\'s no wonder I did not recognize her at first. She was emaciated, ashen complexion, eyelids bloated and red, open sores on her face.
We went back to talk to her. "I thought I recognized you," she said, smiling.
They give her all the cash they have with them, of course, and continue on their way. Several other homeless people ask them for money. They look different now, more like someone’s sons and daughters, more like someone’s neighbors.
Epiphanies like this are available at Christmas, if we will shed our steel skins for just a moment now and then. They fuel our spirit in ways uncharted for the weeks and months to come.
As we set out on the road to Christmas, Lord, even in our haste you slow us down, you stop us in our tracks, you widen our eyes and remind us that we can be like little children any time we decide to just do it. You are right there with us every step of the way. Thank you thank you thank you.