Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Celebrating Christmas

There was a very real chance that I was not going to be able to make it home for Christmas this year. The storm around my parents' was big and bad, and it started on Tuesday. I didn't get off work until Wednesday afternoon, and wasn't sure that the roads were going to allow traffic. That left me with a question. What on earth could I do to celebrate Christmas if I had to go it alone? I made a grocery list of some good food that I could have on hand, and I picked up some books and movies. It was a start, but this was Christmas. What was I going to do to truly celebrate?

Finally, I realized that Mass was the answer. That was the one place that I could go to live Christmas most closely. I don't know why that never occurred to me before. I've always thought of the ways that it makes Calvary present. I had never thought of the way that it makes Bethlehem present.

Bethlehem means "House of Bread". The word "manger" comes from a root word meaning "chewed". In John 6, Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life, His flesh is true food, and tells us that we will have to eat ("gnaw on") His flesh.

I also love how it plays in with John 1:1-18. That was the Gospel for the Mass on Christmas morning. Crazy, huh? Not the story of Jesus' birth from Matthew or Luke, but John's more poetical take on the Incarnation. "The Word became flesh and dwelled among us." I love what that says about Jesus' life on earth 2000 years ago. I also love what that says about the Mass today. I've talked before about a chapel that used those words in a great way. On the ambo (or pulpit), they wrote "the Word". On the altar: "was made flesh", and over the tabernacle was written, "and dwelt among us." Awesome! And also the way that the words of John literally come to life in every Mass.

By this point I knew that even if I didn't get to see my parents, I would be sad, but at least I would get to participate in an eternal mystery, one that encompassed Bethlehem and Calvary and the whole purpose of Christ's life on earth: communion with Him. I couldn't wait!

The irony of it all is that I made it for Christmas with my family, but we got snowed in and couldn't get to Mass. I was kind of sad about that, but I'm here to tell you that getting snowed in with the fam is also a pretty great way to celebrate Christmas.


  1. Very sweet post. I love how you tied in the origin or meaning of the words (i.e, Bethlehem and manger). Sorry you got snowed in and couldn't make it to Mass. We made it to Mass, but got snowed in and couldn't make it to the family.

    I have a little something for you at my blog. :)

  2. That is ironic that you had to trade Mass for family, but I am glad that even if you weren't able to make it to Mass you were able to reflect on its significance. I spent a lot of time thinking about Christmas since Josh's family is almost nothing like mine and the celebrant not only didn't want to be there, he actually skipped the creed! So I got both family and Mass, but in a new form which required adjustment of expectations.