In the season of long shadows the sunset paints the sky of Paradise. Sun dogs dance in swirling ice crystals that shadow spirits of Christmas Past and Future.
Chores are finished as twilight catches us making hasty preparations. A ladder appears momentarily at an upstairs window. A box of gifts is smuggled to the granary. Supper is eaten in excitement. Everyone dons their Christmas finest.
A knock at the door. Breathless we wait. My older brother goes out with his coat, to hold the donkey’s rope. There is a knock. We open. The Christ Child enters bearing gifts in our humble home.
“Have you been a good boy?” Tongue-tied I nod my head. “Catherine have you been a good girl?” “Yes,” she manages. Christ’s dazzling white gown is searing my imagination, a forever image.
Dashing through the snow in a two horse open bobsled, over the fields we go to the old stone church on the hill. The crčche retells the story of Bethlehem’s stable. The ox observes in stony silence and the sheep rest.
The star illuminates an Angel caught hovering over the stable while Jesus rests with Mary and Joseph. We whisper with our cousins and compare new shirts and ties brought by the Christ Child. “I got a coloring book too.”
The sacramental presence is sung with “Joy to the World, the Lord has come. Let earthy receive a King.” “O Holy Night” concludes the pageant of Christmas Past and sends us dashing through the snow as the old stone church on the hill falls silent.
The country church now opens to the few trucks and SUV’s at 8:00 p.m. Midnight Mass is found in cities or cathedrals with professional choirs. Nuclear families find Christmas far from home. A few return.
The crčche still tells the story but few are listening. The sacred mystery of bread and wine unfolds, and as the “Holy, Holy, Holy” is sung, round the altar angels still gather and sing with the elders who have crossed and are now looking about for their children and grandchildren. Tears appear on those present who remember, but these are brushed away.
Lights bedazzle the country side and city streets compete with their neighbors for glitter and sparkle. A train whistle breaks the midnight silence as it blazes through the present.
The long afternoon fades as the senior sits in his chair by the window gazing out. There was a service two days ago and carols were sung. The Lord was raised on high as surely those present were surrounded by saints and angels, still.
A long sigh is followed by a slow smile. Surely Christ is present in the shadows now as he was present when the children sang, “Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace…” Christmas is still what you make it.
Wait! Wait! It goes too quickly! See once more Mom and Dad at the supper table bustling with the gifts of love – Bless us O Lord and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive…forever.
See once again the neighbors singing carols in the park or in the mall all lit with laser lights, LED Christmas trees and projected snow flakes that never reach the ground. Enjoy the gift of time – the present.
And Christmas is still loved into being.
“JesusChrist isthe same yesterdayandtoday andforever” Hebrews 13:8.