Christmas reflection | Joe Buttarazzi

A reflection for Christmas

by Joe Buttarazzi

A decade or so ago, the Christmas mornings saw my wife and I waking the little ones who would then scamper to bundles awaiting them under the tree. A few more years hence and it was they who unintentionally woke us before the crack of dawn, their attempts at ninja-like stealth notwithstanding. Who could blame them for the sleepless eve? Five- to ten-year-olds stirred to near delirium by weeks of intoxicating exposure to glittery decor, a few snowflakes, fa-la-la, sugar cookies and Yankee’s pine needles and cinnamon scents can no more be corralled than wild reindeer on the night of the big show.

The inner qualms are the same each year: “materialism ruins Christmas” versus “wait until they see this…their heads will explode”. Folding like a cardboard belt, we invariably yield to the impulse to bestow a copious haul instead of listening to the sober voice chiding that a lone sock with only a book and new toothbrush found at its toe builds character. (I confess, there were years when I harbored a longing to see the shock on the faces of the more wicked of the brood should they discover a stocking filled only by clean-burning anthracite; if only Santa were a bit more brazen.)

Before you feel too guilty for spoiling children at Christmas, make way for the most indulgent parent of them all, God. The Nativity shows that God, like a parent who never wants to let down their child, gives until it hurts and more, keeping that promise made in the beginning, that we might experience that which is most coveted by all, happiness. Those who let Jesus rest or dwell in them take home the gift of peace.

And none of this divine largesse is merited or ours to choose; it is there for all to plumb, regardless of our sins or righteous deeds. Mary neither does anything to deserve nor signs up to be “full of grace”, it is simply declared of her before she yields as the “handmaiden of the Lord”. Prior to making the scene that would land him on Christmas card covers still some 2,020 years hence and as he readies to quietly slip out the back, the enigmatic Joseph through no power of his own is made to realize that his betrothed’s delicate condition is no unplanned pregnancy. And those shepherds? Mere bystanders to whom news of big things going down in Bethlehem is “made known” preceding their decision to see for themselves what the fuss to high heavens is about.

There may be no multitudes of heavenly hosts, annunciating angels or prophetic dreams to wake your soul to the profundity of the gift proffered this day. The world also seems intent on persuading us that we can sneak our way around complete reliance on God for happiness. At most, we might give an insouciant shrug to the prospect of being “justified in grace”, threatening that we too make the mistake of those who “did not accept him”. “Do not be afraid!” is the emphatic rejoinder to such impediments, for God, as a parent who enjoys the rapture of children, is determined to “rejoice in you” as you unwrap the fullness of divine grace. Even now, your spirit stirs to join the ranks of those “eager to do what is good”, further testimony of unrestrainable love and to the power of the eternal Word crying for you from the manger.

Prayer: Lord, without you, I can do nothing and I am nobody. As you do for the saints on Christmas day, help me to realize the present of unmerited grace in and around me. Make your Holy Sacraments of confession and communion the rebirth I need so that I too might be identified among the “children of God.” Amen.