Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” hands down, is among the top five favorite Christmas songs. And the two top dates in our lives are this day and our birthdays.
Today I have a two for one sermon. But, rest easy, it’s my usual length. The first is called “A Confident Faith’s,” The second is called “A Connected Family.”
“A Confident Faith’s,” written by by Fr. Joe Jagodensky. Literally, it’s the birth and death of Jesus Christ. For us, that second literal will one day occur. However, during this weird in-between time that we, in the Church, call the “journey of life” it’s the symbolic stuff of dying to ourselves and rising to imitate and copy the life of Jesus Christ.
We are all too familiar with failings, sinfulness, and half-hearted attempts. Yet, yet (I love that word because it’s so packed with potential), yet we have the strength of God’s grace living within us along with those never fading, undying virtues of hope and joy. And then there’s God’s daily call to our humility. We would all call that one a challenging challenge. Then there’s our literal kneeling and bowing that we do here in the church which needs to metaphorically happen in each personal encounter, especially with those who disagree with us.
Another song. Julie Andrew’s favorites of “whiskers on kittens” and “cream-colored ponies” and “wild geese that fly with the moon of their wings” may be her’s. But, hardly the spiritually “favorite things” of hope, joy and peace that this day began and continues to live within us all year-‘round. Part One is done.
“A Connected Family,” created by Walter and Jane Jagodensky. As an adult, I refer to our Manitowoc family’s Christmas as the “Iron Curtain.” It was only a bedsheet tacked on the wall that separated the living room from our small hallway. Because you see, I’ve never decorated a Christmas tree. I had “people” do it, aka my older sisters and brother.
Now. My younger sister and I were briskly exiled to Russia, aka my grandmother’s house, a mile and a half away. There we waited with impatience for our return home at dusk. Now. We received the telephone call and our visas and were quickly whisked back home. Hidden behind the bedsheet in our living room was our, once more, brightly decorated tree. Mind you now, unseen by the two of us until the entire rosary was said. All five decades. The manger scene in the hallway still had an empty manger. However, during Advent’s four weeks, we were able to place a straw in the manger for every good deed and behavior done by us to soften this newborn’s sleep.
Now. Here’s the tricky part. The two of us had to be in our pajamas, but the way upstairs was through the living room. We promised not to peek as we both hurried through it. (I peeked once and have confessed it ever since.) The rosary now reaches the third decade, and the youngest got to place the baby Jesus in the manger, now full of our goodwill straws. (Bummer since before she came along I used to be that guy.) We’re finally finished, the curtain is removed, and another Christmas has been ritually and methodically honored. Opening gifts grab our attention more than any grade school writing or arithmetic assignment.
I’m sure all of you had your own family customs that are forever remembered.
Now. Ours is still not finished because we need to dress and attend the Midnight Mass, which was surprisingly held at that time, and then return home for treats. For us kids, it was ice cream. For my dad, it was a terrible gelatin concoction, from either a cow or pig, called “sultz.” That brought a smile only to his face.
The confidence of our collective faith and a connected family to confirm it. What song can you sing and hum along to for this newly approaching year? Is it that nihilistic Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” or is that depressing Gilbert O’Sullivan lamenting, “Alone Again…Naturally”?
Remove the curtain of sin as best you can, and promise to live and share the hope, joy, love, and peace this day provides for all of our days. Live it within your hearts and then sing it to all you meet.