This is my first Christmas with my daughter, Kateri Marie. She is the most beautiful little girl that God has ever created and is such a happy baby that it seems effortless to raise her. Shannon and I hope to build traditions this year that will last her the rest of her childhood. As she gets older, we always want to emphasize the spiritual reasons for the season, so that means we have to think "Advent" and not just "Christmas".
We could not afford to buy an Advent wreath or a decent manger scene (next year!), but we have made do with a 3 foot plastic tree from Target plopped on our end table. Though we didn't buy gifts for each other this year, we bought Kateri a toy and about 10 other people "just had" to buy her something as well, so those are the gifts under the tree.
My favorite part of these last few days of Advent is reading to Kateri about the meaning of Christmas. Sure she is only six months old and has no idea what I'm saying, but it still makes this dad so happy to share our Faith with her! We have several books that a friend and school teacher purchased for us regarding Christmas, both religious and not-so-religious (Clifford's First Christmas fits this description!). Reading to my daughter is definitely a highlight of my day, even when she is trying so hard to shove the corner of the book into her mouth.
I am kind of a poetry nerd. I have put my wife to sleep with verse from Chesterton on more than on occasion and just kept on reading. Tonight I read, with gusto, "T'was the Night Before Christmas" to my wife and child just after she read the biblical story.
I know that Christmas vs. Xmas/Holiday Season is a cultural battle that rages on 24 hour news channels every Advent, but I really do not care about it. Christmas has been thoroughly secularized, but it is not so in my family, so I have no problem borrowing from those moral myths, the apocrypha of Christendom, about jolly old Saint Nick. Apparently this poem is what started in the UK the whole modern Santa Claus thing that we have going on now, popularizing the elf-hood of Santa, the clothes and the reindeer. It is still an entertaining poem and I plan on keeping this tradition alive and well.
Mass was... challenging. We lost our seats and had to stand the whole time, which wouldn't be a problem usually, but Kateri started babbling loudly because she was tired and there was no place in the church to feed her, which would have knocked her out, so she belted on! During the homily and again in the offertory I ducked out the doors to try and calm her down, all to no avail. We were blocked from seeing the consecration by three huge Christmas trees in the narthex and we could barely hear the Readings as crazy kids ran around the back of church unsupervised and adults carried on conversations in almost full volume. Needless to say, there was nothing but distractions in that part of the church.
But you know what was amazing?
Through all the commotion and distraction, we still received the Word of God in the liturgy. Jesus was just as present as He always is, even when my mind was far from present. Receiving Him in the Eucharist was just as real, as powerful, even if I wasn't in an angelic disposition to receive Him. He never changes.
That's part of the meaning of Christmas; that no matter how seemingly bad it gets, God does not stop loving us, does not shift His faithfulness away from us, but His loving presence remains.
"I will not leave you orphans."
"Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of time."