January is different because of Christmas
“In My Father’s House” / Paul Thomas Moore
It was Christmas Eve, and we were in the grocery store, stocking up on some last-minute items for the big day. One of the store employees was dressed as Santa, and he was working at the check-out. Meanwhile, some other employees — no doubt his elves, were re-stocking the shelves . . . with Valentine’s Day items (a process that has only accelerated since then).
As far as the world was concerned, the party was over before the guest of honor arrived. Santa’s grocery store workshop was moving on.
Over the holidays, I watched an old Christmas movie called “The Holly and the Ivy.” In the movie a family came to some redemptive new understandings one Christmas Eve — just as a new understanding was reached between Heaven and earth one evening 2,000 years ago
As one of the characters in the movie says, “There’s something about Christmas morning. The first moment when you wake up . . . you always know it’s Christmas . . . it’s as if during the night while you were asleep, something had happened.”
CHRISTMAS IS OVER, RIGHT?
As Christians we believe something — or rather Someone — sure did happen. The only thing to which I can personally compare that sense of startling joy was the blessing of being present at the birth of my daughter, Sarah. Someone had arrived who was promised. That same sense of a miracle unfolding was prefigured by Isaiah 700 years before Christ’s birth, “They name him Wonder-Counselor . . . .” (Isaiah 9:6)
This column is about Christmas, and in that sense, it’s dated: Christmas is over, right? Well, some parts of 2020 definitely got old: warmed-over Muzak in the malls, over-heated politics in the halls, and most of all — COVID 2020.
But we want to make sure we never lose or set aside the only real Christmas gift that matters — the birth of hope.
As the Ghost of Christmas Present tells Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”: “Mortal! We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred and sixty-five. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in . . . hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year.”
Paul conveys that same idea of a wondrous gift at once promised and fulfilled to Titus, his colleague-in-Christ. “The grace of God has appeared,” he writes, “training us . . . in this age, as we await the blessed hope.”
NIGHT WILL NEVER BE AS DARK AGAIN
Meanwhile, as we anticipate the end of “this age” (which incidentally is the end of the world), we live in the present — the only time in which sin and salvation are equally accessible.
Christ’s decree of hope is that “the whole world should be enrolled,” though not as in “the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria,” but in a new census of souls, each eager to be counted as one of “those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2: 1-14)
Why not start in January? As my predecessor in this column space, my father-in-law the late Jerry Klein wrote, “There should be a little celebration for January . . . a quiet one . . . with no fanfare or paper hats or champagne (but) a deep appreciation for . . .the promise of what is to become.”
In C.S. Lewis’s Christian allegory, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the setting is a frozen-souled land that has yet to be redeemed, a place where, as the young character Lucy says, “It is always winter and never Christmas. How awful!” But January is different because of Christmas.
In every life, there will still be tall-shadowed days before our souls spring off on their eternal adventures, but something happened that long-ago Christmas Eve, and night will never be as dark again.
We needn’t be afraid, “For today in the City of David a Savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:11) That’s the gospel truth — something worth going to tell on the mountain, or even in Central Illinois.
PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.