December 23, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

‘Tis the night before Christmas (almost), and we can’t wait!

Cynthia DewesWell, the little drummer boy has thankfully been drummed out of hearing range. Santa’s elves, including the mean ones, the TV technology salesmen kind, and all the other imaginative wiseacres of holiday lore have been put on hold for another year.

The ethnics are gearing up for their traditional Christmas Eve or Christmas day meals. This includes my Norwegian relatives, who enjoy a “white” supper on Christmas Eve, featuring lefse—a pale, soft bread made mainly from potatoes—plain boiled potatoes, turnips and lutefisk, boiled cod which has been treated with lye and dried. Don’t ask.

Amahl is still waiting for the night visitors, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is charging his batteries. St. Nicholas has had his day, while Santa Claus is readying for his. And yes, Virginia is still glad to hear there really is a Santa Claus. All this while some unseen force is letting it snow, letting it snow, letting it snow.

The Grinch, whoever that is, is trying to steal Christmas, whatever that means.

Solemn choirs are singing “Adeste Fidelis,” and joyous ones are belting out the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The bells are poised to ring on the big day, even though they have been jingling for some time now.

Scrooge is winding down his dyspeptic dream, and Tiny Tim is about to be given a big surprise. O. Henry’s gift exchange between a loving husband and wife is in the works. The story of how “Silent Night” came to be written is told to a new generation of singers, and enjoyed by everyone.

Frosty the Snowman and other peripheral holiday characters have been laid aside for now. In fact, every aspect of the Christmas story has probably been covered, including the dopey, irreverent, meaningful or charming ones. That is the kind of feast, the kind of holy day, that it is.

No matter how politically correct we try to be during these Happy Holidays, the “Christ” word keeps slipping in to remind us that Christmas is, in fact, a Christian holiday. Christmas is the entrance of the Messiah into human his-story. It is the culmination of God’s promise to the Jews in the Old Testament, and the beginning of God’s promise in the New Testament of redemption for all of us on Easter. Of course, Easter is the greatest feast of all, but Christmas may be more beloved.

After all, the Christmas story involves a sweet, helpless baby, his harassed parents, a political tyrant and folks trying to help the little family along its journey. That is much more pleasant for us to contemplate than thinking about the violent death of our innocent Savior by crucifixion.

It is a story that appeals to everyone because it is familiar to everyone in some way. The salvation that the baby brings comes later, but right now we have pure hope. We can relate to the Holy Family and their baby, the plight of the poor and powerless, and the simple good will of humble shepherds at the scene. There are animals, too, inspiring affection because they ask nothing in return.

Hope is always a good thing. So maybe we should just relax and enjoy putting up stockings in anticipation of surprises from a jolly, overweight fellow who can slide up and down chimneys, and drive a deer-driven sleigh through the sky. Maybe we should be more like the children, who always expect gifts from loving parents, sweet surprises and happy endings.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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