Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Do You Possess the Knowledge of Christmas ?


I awoke this morning depressed that so many of my family had to leave for work.

I found it depressing because, goodness spirits alive!, even Scrooge made up the fires with another coal-scuttle and enjoyed a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop with Bob Cratchit the day after a day of merrymaking.

My husband, who works so hard for us to have enjoyed a very Merry Christmas and who is fighting a nasty cold, left in the cold still-sleeping hours of morning. So did our oldest son and daughter-in-law who live next door. In a flurry of 30+ degree cold, my other son, on his way to work, let the two outside dogs inside as they were scratching and wagging and barking their way into warmer quarters.

In the beauty of December 26, our faith says that Christmas has only begun, that we should continue to celebrate the spirit of Christmas for the next 12 days when, in truth, we should live each day of the year in the spirit of giving that we gleefully chant on December 25.

Like Scrooge, we should live and bask the days after Christmas "...in the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and ...(know) how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possess(es) the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!"

In the quiet of December 26, society says Christmas is over. Get back to work. And, I guess, as a society, it must be so. I, myself, must stop at the store today for paper towels and a prescription. Life goes on and that includes life's necessities. Stores must be restocked, trash trucks must collect joyful wrappings, nursing homes and hospitals must be fully staffed. I'm sure even the pioneering mothers had to get back to cooking and sewing and mending and washing and scrubbing floors on the 12 days following Christmas.

We must live the spirit of Christmas even as we go back to work and go shopping and go about tanking up our vehicles. Christmas is the one day that let's most of us press pause.

So I allowed myself the peace of the day-after because mothers can't always press pause on the day-of. I turned on the Christmas tree lights anew, made a pot of coffee, threw on a load of laundry, Swiffer jetted all my floors (except the kitchen which will need an old-fashion broom and mop job), and ate a warmed-up rum cake. And I prayed for those who were not together this Christmas Day, those whose families suffering through divorces and family breakups, those who did not have children waking under their rooftops to enjoy Christmas presents, and those who had lost loved ones this past year.

One must be ever aware of the pain outside. That's part of Christmas as well.

Despite the beauty of a bright star, heralding angels, and kingly gifts, there was also the cold dark, the barn stench, cobwebs hanging from rafters, and a desolute manger made holy only by what was placed inside of it.

Christ made the ordinary holy. Christ made the day holy. He left the warmth of heaven to enter a cold, rejecting world. His own skin, goose-bumped and naked, was laid in raw splinters. Only his mother's arms offered comfort and warmth.

While there are twinkling lights and fellowship within our homes, somewhere in the world there is a little match girl wandering the cold streets without warmth to return at home to. Does the warmth of our homes filter outside itself?

Through the month of December, my girls and I, with friends, rung the bells for Salvation Army. We sent games and toiletries to runaway children at Harbour House. We collected can goods and non-perishables and delivered them to St. Vincent de Paul's Pantry. We visited the nursing home and delivered treats. With each store clerk's, "Would you like to donate a $1 with your purchase today to X-charity so that a children can enjoy Christmas this year?" I said, "Yes, of course." 

These are all good things but they still felt a bit outside myself. Anyone could do these things. They are things we often do once a year.

Nothing personal lingers on my mind in the way a certain private encounter does.

It was Christmas Eve.

I was checking out of Wal-Mart with some last minute baking-shopping items. The store clerk and I spoke casually.

Was I finished with all my Christmas shopping?
Yes, I think so. This should do it. What about you?

Will family be over on Christmas day?
Yes, all of them. And more.

The grandmother and mother behind me joined in our little tete-a-tete. Several nice pleasantries were exchanged then the store clerk shared with me that actually her Christmas wouldn't begin until December 26. That's when her little girl was coming to visit her. We shared a smile that only mothers exchange and I acknowledged her delight. What a thrill! What a joy! What glory to be able to tangibly continue the spirit of Christmas the day after.

How old is she? I asked.

Four.

Perfect age for Christmas! I told the mother. Perfect! Nothing like the eyes of a four-year-old at Christmas time.

We silently, purposely, skirted the fact that this mother would awake Christmas morning without her young daughter. That the beauty her daughter would see Christmas morning would not be under the gaze of her mother...for whatever reasons.

Here's where society's hunger for all knowledge has ruined its respect for silence and faith.

It is not our business to know all the whys and hows and reasons that this mother does not have her daughter on Christmas Day.

It is our business to live the days after Christmas "...in the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and ...(know) how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possess(es) the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!" (~Dickens)

There is so much pain out there. We should look and love each encounter God places before us and live that moment with the intention that our Christmas moment begins now in the person before us.

So I spent the close of my transaction telling the mother how blessed she was to be able to spend the day after Christmas with her little girl. A continuation of Christmas, what a gift that would be from her to her daughter.

And I thought of them this morning as my own family left the house and went back to the ordinary of everything. And I'm praying their morning spent together was as beautiful as the present Mary held in her arms the day after Christmas 2012 years ago.

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