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Up on the housetop, click, click, click

by davesandel on December 25th, 2021

Saturday, December 25, 2021                                    (today’s lectionary)

Christmas Day (the first day of Christmas)

Up on the housetop, click, click, click

The time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Of course the texts for midnight Mass are wonderful, marvelous, mighty, everlasting, full of Peace. Did you go to church last night, maybe at 5 pm, maybe at midnight? With music and well-dressed children and moms and dads and grandmas, along with a good number of people far more alone than those others? Maybe there were cookies, your choice of M&M or straight-up sugar?

Gradually, everyone disappears back into the darkness, back into the worlds we have made for ourselves (or say we have), back to our moments here on earth, hidden with Christ in God. Silver bells, it’s Christmastime in the city. Ring-a-ling, here them ring.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have smashed the yoke that has burdened them. A child is born to us, a son is given us, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

On my Alexa I see pictures of my sweet, smart Aunt Nenie, who died two years ago. Then a picture of Joan Didion, who died two days ago and wrote often about grief, with unexpected honesty, in The New Yorker. Aunt Nenie kissed our babies’ feet and made them giggle. She giggled along with them.

Aunt Nenie introduced me to the Ignatian Exercises and told me how working through them many years past had changed her life. I decided to follow in her footsteps. Earlier this year I read Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking. Yes, she writes about grief, her own grief, and many of her readers weep. Me too. She was 87 two days ago, when she died, after a good, long life.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. Announce his salvation day after day. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice, let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. For he comes to rule the earth with justice and faithfulness. Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

After our own church celebration in Austin tonight, where hundreds (yes, really) of kids ran up to the front to sit around our pastor’s red chair while he read them a Christmas story, we ate shrimp and olives and summer sausage and cookies and opened our stockings. Margaret and I were stockingless (except for our compression socks), but Andi took pity and put together a stocking sack for each of us, and we were happy. Jasper ran back from his own party of two year olds with a crown, great stickers, and a popper full of confetti. He was very proud and could hardly wait to show them off.

We played charades, and I got Silent Night. I rode a horse and carried a lance and no one figured out I was a knight. Except Miles, who thought I was shooting a gun. Andi got Hark the Herald Angels Sing, but she didn’t have to act out the word “hark!” We’re all pretty good at Charades.

We await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us and cleanse for himself a people eager to do what is good.

On the morning of Christmas Eve I shopped, and Margaret prayed with a friend here whose family is fraught at Christmas. Fraught with frustration and confusion, when all the family combinations get turned upside down. Afterward Margaret waxed our floor, and I took a nap. And then we made some things beautiful with our food, and settled down to read a book, but there they were, our family, and we put the books down and … were happy.

The glory of the Lord shone round about them. Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For until you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you …

These moments are what make our days wild and sweet, quiet and crazy, happy and sad, and we will learn soon enough about grief, but for now, the Ghost of Christmas Present, Father Christmas, the messengers from the east, wise men and maybe a wise woman too, all remind us to be happy in Jesus, and to trust and obey.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

 (Isaiah 9, Psalm 96, Titus 2, Luke 2)

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