Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Let unconquerable gladness dwell.
-- FDR

Somewhere between Thanksgiving Break and my road trip homeward bound through the snowy Wisconsin tundra with my older sister, it occurred to me that this may be my last Christmas at home in quite some time.
That realization shook me. For like the sun rising in the west and setting in the east, Christmas Traditions in my household are constant, dependable, and unchanging.
Exhibit A: 
The Gingerbread House. Going strong for 20 Years.

Until just several years ago, my super-human mother sewed us all matching Christmas nightgowns. 

 And we still sit on the stairs to take a Christmas morning photograph.
Although my six-year-old self definitely rocked the "fresh-out-of-bed" Christmas morning look better than I do now.

Christmas Traditions: Some things never change.

From decorating the tree to opening stockings, from the foods of Christmas dinner to who gets to light the advent wreath, we are creatures of habit. 
Change is disorienting and therefore discouraged.

Somewhere between the moment when the gingerbread chimney collapsed and the Adeste Fidelis at the beginning of Mass, I became absolutely inconsolable.
But, surprisingly, in a twist of Christmas magic, the communion meditation was this:

which, as I knelt in front of the Divine Mercy, wrapped in the warm wool of my coat in the cold brick church, and listened to the music praise, in the softest of tones, the greatest mystery the world has ever witnessed, I felt that change was not a death-knell of the path, but instead the promise of a future.
 One of my favorite fables is the oft-told tale of the sun and the North Wind vying to remove the coat of a traveler.
The Wind blows and blows, but it is only the Sun who can force the man to remove his jacket, for why would you hold onto a thing when you have no more need of it? 
There is no need for our protective iron armor of self-importance, or invulnerability, when we are bathed by the rays of love emanating from our neighbor, from our family, from that all-encompassing Source of Love that can't seem to stop overwhelming us, inundating us, scorching us, even, with His love.
When we encounter the warmth of a sun, we have no need for our coat.
Why keep our jackets on when the story of the world is the story of Father who cannot keep His eyes off of His children?
Why would He look away when He finds them so beautiful?

Somewhere between our pasts and our futures is the present, we are told that we are the light of the world. Which, if you stop to think about it a moment, is a completely laughable statement. There are times when I feel I contribute more to the darkness than to the light.
But we are told to bear our light; and we do not hear the call when we are ready to be perfect receptacles of love and life.
We are told, just as the imperfect motley crew of Judas, Thomas, and Peter were told, in no uncertain terms: You are the light of the world. Present tense. Not past.
The light has arrived into the darkness of night, and what a great mystery it is that the animals should be the first to see the light, lying in a manger.
And what avail is our darkness against such a light?

This makes Christmas a very practical matter.
To look at the star means receiving light and giving light, radiating in the world around us the light that we have received.
--Joseph Ratzinger

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