Tuesday, December 30, 2003

As a cradle Catholic, Christmas Masses don't individually stand out in my mind. They all kind of blur together in a kaleidoscope of memories: incense, candles, poinsettias, carols, the Nativity set up. Yeah, I know. But those are the same every year, which can be both boring and reassuring at the same time. Usually I opt for reassuring.
Of the two years in my living memory that I missed Mass for Christmas, one was last year, when confusion about the Mass schedule in Dale's home town left us high and dry. The other was in 1996 when I went with Dale to the Methodist service in the aforementioned home town.
That year, the pastor had somehow managed to get use of a barn. They even had a dog there; to represent the animals, I think. I found it less distracting than Liturgical Movement, personally.
Was I thinking about the Christ child, His parents, their long journey, animals, or anything to do with 2000 years ago? The miracle of the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, shepherds, or Bethlehem? In a word, no. It is commonly accepted that Jesus was not born in December but probably in the spring, when shepherds really would have been out in the fields (it's too cold, even in ancient Israel, in winter). I knew that so the snow drifting in the large hole near the roof of the barn where I was didn't seem relevant to what the pastor was talking about.
I was thinking about people right at that moment who had nowhere to go on this most holy night. At the end of this service, I was going to leave my shivering behind. I was to go to my now in-laws' house where a mountain (seriously, the sucker was three feet high) of presents was waiting. Where on the morrow a mountain of food was to be prepared and enjoyed, and laughter and merriment were the order of the day. Where there was heat, for God's sake!
I was thinking of those who, like my father in his day, hope for the Goodfellows to bring Christmas. For those who don't have heat. Or companionship. Or a meal.
We went back to the house and I changed into the pajamas his mom had gotten for me the year before. I went out to the living room, where his brother was sprawled in sleep on the couch, and I studied the pile of presents by the lights on the tree. And I almost wept.

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