The Gifts of Christmas

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

Growing up in my family, Christmas Eve meant gathering around the Christmas tree, house lights dim, tree lights glowing, the scent of logs burning, the fragrance of pine needles, as my Dad read with great fanfare The Night Before Christmas. His boisterous rendition was always followed with our attention turned to the creche as my mother proclaimed, with more hush than gusto, Luke’s Infancy Narrative. From an early age, I learned that the sacred and the secular go hand and hand.

This is the time of Christmas. This is the time of a global pandemic. Perhaps there has never been a time when we were more in need of God entering our chaos and becoming human in Jesus.  The Incarnation is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds and almost by the sheep.

The troubadour of Christmas. G.K. Chesterton, helps us to uncover the spiritual center of the secular:


 What has happened has been the the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.  It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good ~ far from it.  And the experience was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. Of course, most people who talk about these things get into a state of some mental confusion by attaching tremendous importance to the name of the entity.  We called him Santa Claus because everyone called him Santa Claus, but the name of a god is a mere human label. His real name may have been Williams. It may have been the Archangel Uriel. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking, now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.



For our pondering

 Where in my life is God inviting me to enlarge my heart and to love a bigger God?

Recall a moment of Wonder/Amazement in your life.  Revisit.  What happened inside of you?

Does the Incarnation provide an invitation to live your life differently post-COVID?





Smiling Memories of Christmas Past

By Sister Loretta Cornell, President, MHSH

When we came downstairs on Christmas morning to all the presents under the tree—and I do mean ALL the presents because there were 11 of us—we sang Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus.  After that we each looked for our special pile of presents, which would consist of things we needed such as socks and clothing as well as a toy, a game and a sock filed with nuts, hard Christmas candy, a tangerine and an apple.

After the presents were opened, Mom and Dad would go to Mass together.  Sometimes, those of us who hadn’t gone to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve would go with our parents.

When they came home it was time to play the games. My Dad played the games with us and my Mom went to the kitchen to cook.  We had the best fun, laughing and carrying on with Dad, who usually won the games, but it didn’t matter.  We had fun and enjoyed one another.  In the early afternoon, we would gather and have our Christmas dinner, which always began with grace and thanking Jesus for being born into our lives.

Our Christmas was equal parts joy in the birth of Jesus, warmth in being together as a family and the sheer fun of playing with new games and toys.  Those Christmases have blessed me with loving and smiling memories. And they have sustained me through Christmas days that were less merry—times when there was loss and sadness and missing people long gone.

But still, after all these years, today my thoughts of Christmas are still smiles and laughter and a profound thankfulness for the gift of the infant Jesus and the love that shines through family and friends and memories.

I hope this remembrance of my early Christmas days brings a smile to your face and heart.  And I hope that you, too, have cherished memories that light up this holy time.  May Jesus always be the center of your life and your Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad.