By Fr. Bernie Weir
As they say, “the stockings are hung with care.” At least they are at my house. I have a huge one for myself and one for each of my dogs. My house and office are decorated. I have my Christmas clothes out and am wearing them every day. If you talk to the staff and parish they say I have ugly Christmas sweaters. If you talk to me, I have beautiful Christmas sweaters. The gifts are all wrapped or won’t get wrapped in time and so I will just put them in a gift bag and call it good. At least one or two gifts can’t be found. I bought them and put them some place safe, never to be seen again. They are in that black hole of lost Christmas gifts.
Black Friday was a wonderful experience as it always is for me. They say it is a perfect day to start your Christmas shopping. Who are we kidding? It is perfect day to buy yourself all that stuff that you can live without and know that someone else is not going to get you. I have a lot of new stuff that I can’t live without it. Yeah, the stuff is still in the trunk of my car since Black Friday, but I can’t live without it.
In the United States Santa Claus brings the gifts. I have a Santa tracker app on my phone. I want to know where he is so that I’m sure I’m in bed and asleep before he arrives. In many of the Spanish-speaking countries gifts are brought on Epiphany by the Three Kings. I don’t have a Three Kings app. I did get my picture taken with them once when I was in Mexico for the Epiphany.
People are always talking about not forgetting the “true” meaning of Christmas. Here at St. James Parish in Washington we even gave out pins that said, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I never worry that people will forget the true meaning of Christmas; you either know it or you don’t. You never forget it. Ok, it is true that some years it is possible to get a little distracted around Christmas Time, but the minute you step into the church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day you know why you are there.
Next Sunday is the true test as to whether or not you understood the real meaning of the incarnation. On Christmas Eve with all of the beautiful music, the candles, the incense and the crowds it is so easy to know that you are loved by Christ and embraced in the arms of mother Church. Next week when you are tired and ready for the family to go home it is important to remember that you are loved by Christ and embraced by mother Church.
There are also cultural differences as to when the manger comes down. In many English-speaking families the manger will be put away before New Year’s or at the latest by the Epiphany. In many Spanish-speaking families it may not be taken down until sometime in February. In the end it doesn’t matter when we return the manger to the box and put it back in the basement, as long as we are packing up statues and not the love of Christ.
The renewal that our heart and faith experience during this season is important. To have had the time to grow in our relationship with Christ and his Church is an honor that cannot be taken lightly. I do not worry about people forgetting “the reason for the season” during the holidays. It is my hope that everyone is still remembering it in July.
I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas from myself and the people of St. James in Washington. If you cannot be with your family this year know that they are missing you as much as you miss them. Maybe next year you will be together. It is my hope that you get what you need for Christmas and at least some of what you want.
(Father Bernie Weir is pastor of St. James Parish in Washington.)