Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in the ordinary

Christmas Eve & Day are the most special days of the year for me, primarily because no matter where I am, there is a different feeling in the air on these two days, unlike any other days I've experienced throughout my life. Expectation, joy, peace, all emotions I've felt on December 24 and December 25. It's a mystery to me...and it repeats year after year. I've also had years of sadness and loneliness on these days, dealing with loved ones who were ill and in crisis. My grandpa collapsed on Christmas day and died four days later when I was nine years old. Thirty six years later, it's still a prominent memory for me. My Dad was in the hospital three years ago and now his best friend is there, a man who sat with us for three months...patiently waiting like us, for Dad to come home.

To equate this time of celebration with love and grief is unavoidable because the emotions are so interconnected...We grieve those whom we have loved. God comes to us gently in His example of His birth because I think He knew and understood the world He had created, one in which joy and fear shared seats in concert, with passion, love and anger. How can one not stand in awe of the fragility and beauty of a newborn infant? In the midst of chaos, the world did not stop. The world celebrates simplicity in extravagance. He was/is a contradiction. Being born in the bleakness and beauty of humble surroundings, via a vessel of grace, we had among us the Godchild, a Light in the darkness.

We are celebrating Christmas this year, grateful for the blessings we've received and will receive in the coming year, worried about extended family members dealing with a devastating diagnosis, a good friend in the hospital recovering from a fall off a roof. Life is a circle of joy and suffering, gain and loss. In the midst of running around this Advent, it was important for me to lie low and hang out with the kids. My sisters and I decided we wouldn't exchange gifts. We thought it best just to help each other with the dinner preparations. We wanted to welcome friends we haven't seen in a year. They are Jewish friends who want to experience Christmas and they asked to share it with us. It wasn't about what we bought. I know, I know. The stores opened early and closed late with discounts and deals beyond belief. Someone reminded me that a good deed is better than 80% off anything that is usually discarded soon after it's opened on Christmas. We filled up our gas tanks with loose change. When was the last time we could do that?

Who needs you? That is what this Christmas is about. Does a friend need a lift, a kind word? Does someone need a ride, a meal, a shoulder to cry on? Better than that cashmere sweater, or Blu-Ray DVD player, how can you give your time? What about having everyone in for a movie night, a home-cooked meal, a night out with a babysitter? Who needs me? My family is about to lose me to a 12 month nursing program and I have to remind myself that I need to set aside time for them. Sometimes, just hanging out in the kitchen baking with my kids is a gift.

When Christ was born in Bethlehem, He came as an infant, in secret and in love. He revisits us in the sacraments, in other people and even sometimes challenging us by coming to us in the people we don't care for too much. God comes to us through our family members and friends. As quietly as He arrived...he stays patient for us to recognize Him in the ordinary. Cook something nice, be present to your loved ones, take the phone of the hook, go to church, even if you haven’t been there in a while, open a bottle of something to share and have a very Merry Christmas.

Tammy Maher is a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

1 comment:

Bridget said...

"Wow, Thank you, God has Blessed you with an ability to help spread his word, in ways easy for us to understand especially these days"
- Written by Giovanna (On Bridget's Blog, because I don't have one)