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:

THE OTHER STOCKING

 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?

 

 

 

 

Called by Circumstances

A Reflection by Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

In the first reading for the Second Sunday of Lent (GN 12:1-4A) God tells Abram:

“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”

Midrash is one of my favorite things.  (No, it’s not a terrible affliction akin to shingles, although that’s what it sounds like.)  Midrash is the practice of students of scripture who read a passage like the one above and wonder what happened before and after the event recorded.

What might have led up to it?  What outcomes were possible?  It’s all speculation, of course—none of it is verifiable in history—but pondering a reading in that way can be quite rich.

stars 2 Magic SkiesMy first thought on this little reading is, “God sure knows how to sweeten a deal!”  Certainly God realized how wrenching it would be for Abram to surrender his land.  Ownership of land in many (not all) cultures confers status, security, even the right to vote (as in our country at one time).  Abram should give all that up?

“You must be kidding, God.”

But then the sweetener:  God promises Abram a new great nation, a wonderful reputation, unlimited blessings.  Wow!  So “Abram went as the Lord directed him.”  Lucky for us he was so easily persuaded.  But, I have to wonder what his wife had to say!

Circumstances call us, (not divine voices exactly, but…) and we are rarely so compliant as Abram.  We dither, ponder, discuss, maybe dispute.  “Why should I do that, or go there or accept such-and-such or so-and-so?  Why me, now, here?  What if I had other plans?”

I think particularly of women I’ve known or heard about—mothers of young families whose husbands suddenly die—a car crash, a stroke, a heart attack.  Then what?  How to acquiesce to that?  How to go on?  Could I?

For Reflection:

 Is such a tragedy a call that can bring its own grace, making acceptance possible?  Are such experiences our transfiguring events?  How many such calls come to us in the course of one lifetime? How do we answer them?