Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
It is the way the old children’s rhyme "Christmas is Coming" begins.
Indeed, here we are near Christmas, which is the one religious holiday that we all plan and work hard to celebrate. I will grant you that, theologically speaking, Easter Sunday and Easter season, the liturgical season by which the church proclaims the resurrection faith, may be the most important of Christian holy days. Yet, for some reason, all of us go all out for Christmas—sometimes, whether or not we want to and whether or not we intend to. By contrast, on Easter eve, for example—a day the church calls Holy Saturday—we see scant evidence that anyone is about to celebrate a major religious festival. On Holy Saturday most businesses are open and life looks pretty much like business as usual.
However, on Christmas Eve most communities have a different feel from daybreak on. There are fewer cars on our roads, many people choosing to prepare at home for the festivities at hand. On Christmas Eve afternoon, after the banks close at noon for the holiday, even the largest downtown square in the world look a little like the most abandoned squares in the world. We write Christmas cards and letters, we put lights on our houses, and we decorate the inside of our homes with care. Clearly, planning and preparing for Christmas are activities in which many, many people share at this time of the year.
Yet, despite our careful preparation and planning for Christmas, some of the most memorable moments of Christmas occur in times and places we least expect it. Like the unlikely birth of the Son of God in a stable to a young unmarried virgin, Christmas and its significance is all too often lost on us. Could it be, perhaps, that we look in the wrong places for Christmas meaning?
Regardless of our careful planning, my prayer for us this Christmas season is that we might find the meaning of Christmas in the mystery that God offers us in the Christ child. In a world that rarely listens to children’s voices, may we not forget the words of Isaiah who prophesied long ago “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
May we all open our hearts and lives to that mystery for which none of us can plan.