Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve - at last! Yet, as Christmas Eve more and more seems to take on the character of Christmas Day (and, sadly, seems to be becoming a substitute for Christmas Day in terms of Mass attendance), the day before Christmas Eve seems in turn to be taking on more of the traditional feel of Christmas Eve. It certainly felt that way yesterday, especially as evening came and we were all home, watching yet another version of the ever-powerful story of Scrooge on the TV.

My guess is that everyone has his or her favorite Christmas movie. Mine will always be Miracle on 34th Street - for the rather personal reason that I owe my very existence to Macy’s Department Store in New York City. My parents were both employed by Macy’s in the autumn of 1946 when they met there at a soap sale – the first such soap sale after the war. For my father, it was love at first sight. Their first date was Radio City’s famous Christmas Show. While they waited in line, my father serenaded my mother, singing All the Things You Are – to the delight of those standing on line with them and (more importantly) to the delight of my mother. (They were engaged just before Christmas, and my mother received her engagement ring at the famous St. Francis of Assisi Church, near Macy’s). Two months later, they were married in my mother’s parish in the Bronx. As Macy’s employees, my parents (along with many others) sat under the lights for what seemed like forever as invisible parts of the background crowd for the cafeteria scene in Miracle on 34th Street.

Christmas movies often feature otherworldly kinds of characters – Dickens’ Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, for example. In Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle may indeed be Santa Claus, but he lives in a residence for senior citizens on Long Island. While he accomplishes a tremendous transformation in the people who get to know him, he does so in an ordinary, human way –doing the sorts of good things those other people would never have done had it not been for his presence in their lives.

Like Kris Kringle, but to an infinitely greater degree and on an infinitely greater scale, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, changes the lives of all who will let him. He reveals what it means to be human and enables us to be and to do what we would never have been or done on our own, had he not become one of us. He reveals to us and enables us to reconnect with the God who is so in love with us that he has chosen to be one of us. The Christmas story is the story of God’s own Word, becoming what he himself had created, truly God and truly human, Emmanuel, God-with-us. This is the Christian story, the orthodox Christian faith, which we profess, proclaim, celebrate, and share with the world – at Christmas and all year round.

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