When I was a child, Christmas meant decorations inside the house and lights strung outside on the eaves and bushes, gifts under the tree, and Midnight Mass. The centerpiece on Christmas Day was the dining room table, which was set by late morning.
My mother would gently correct my haphazard placement of silverware and insist that each setting get a water glass filled to the brim – just as they did in restaurants. Her holiday tablecloth adorned the table, as did the placemats she made herself. Napkins were rolled into festive napkin rings, and she used the china set that my father brought back from Japan when he was in the navy.
My husband and I aren’t blessed with children, and our families live in other states. Having grown up in Illinois, snow-free Southern California doesn’t feel like Christmas. We don’t have room for a tree, and we fear our dog might do doggy things to a miniature shrub. We don’t bother to wrap presents for each other. Rather, we state our desired gift and we go together to pick it out. I fear we’ve grown lazy with our celebration.
This year on Christmas day, as I was about to set out the everyday dishes on a barren table in preparation for our Christmas meal – I do cook the traditional dinner – I remembered how special my mother made the holidays for our family and I scrapped my plans, or lack of plans. Out came the poinsettia placemats, the red-and-green plaid napkins, and the china from Japan, which my mother gave me. My efforts made a difference. We recognized that this wasn’t just another meal. The day held special meaning, and we were gathered for a celebration, even if it was a celebration of two.
It’s easy to get complacent, and in the same way we blow off our holiday traditions, we can become lazy in our spiritual life. No need to dress up for Mass or services. No need to come on time or stay for the blessing. No need to read Scripture outside of Mass or services. (If you don’t have a Bible, get one, or go online to the USCCB site or Bible Gateway.)
We Christians, who are so preoccupied by the everyday, can forget that our lives are infused with the miraculous. We forget that Christmas isn’t just another birthday but is the birth of our Savior. God become man. The Gloria in Excelsis Deo is more than a pretty song. It is a tribute to the angelic choirs that filled Heaven with praise at His birth. The nativity set is not the equivalent of a Christmas Barbie® village. It’s a representation of the miracle that occurred that night, with emphasis on the humble beginnings of our King. The wise men – pagans – recognized the significance of His birth and paid Him homage. The shepherds, considered the lowest of the low by society, approached Him, possibly understanding that this King had come for the sinners and the poor.
If we get complacent about the Good News, if we don’t live as if we’ve opened the best present ever on Christmas morning, how can we expect people who don’t know Him to recognize the miracle of Jesus’ birth and Resurrection? The joy brought about by these events. The hope of everlasting life with Him.
This year, make an effort. Get to know Jesus through the New Testament. Talk to Him daily in prayer, or approach the Father or the Holy Spirit if you prefer. Make an effort to live as the best version of yourself and offer it up to Him as a gift. Even your Christmas dinner table can bear witness to others as to the marvelous presence of Jesus in your life.
Author’s Note: Want an easy way to talk to God every day through His Word? Go to the American Bible Society and download a copy of the 2017 Daily Bible Readings found on the sidebar. The schedule includes instructions for contemplating and talking to God through Scripture.
©Jacqueline Vick, 2017