“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” we hear in one of the Christmas songs no doubt already playing in many stores.
And in so many ways it really is. Christmas is one of the Christian holidays that Americans can’t quite let go. It’s easy to get cynical and talk about consumerism and the secularization of it all and the stores that ban the word while relying on it for their survival.
But it is also a hopeful sign that Christmas remains.
Of course we know why it’s beautiful. The music is glorious, the decorations are wonderful, the food and drink cheer us, the smiles on young faces warm our hearts, the noble tradition of gift-giving uplifts and the spirit of brotherhood fills us with hope.
But terrific as all that is, none of it is really the essence of why this season moves so many hearts. Far surpassing all of that is the quiet, tender scene at the manger, God made man in the person of a newborn baby, helpless and poor, whom angels and shepherds adore. It’s a story you couldn’t have made up, with the great virtue of also being true. Linus gets it right every year. It really is glad tidings of great joy.
And someone is going to sit in your pew (we hope).
In October, Sherry Weddell gave us hopeful news, that many of the people who are only barely connected with the Catholic Church have more of an openness that we might have expected. For many of them, their connection with us will be most deeply felt right about now, as warm memories — perhaps “ghosts of Christmas past” — come knocking. In many of our parishes there are special events, carols, cheer.
So invite someone. Surely you know plenty of people who need a little beauty and joy and fellowship in their lives. When you see an unfamiliar face, let the true joy of Christmas fill your heart and your smile and make a friend. Perhaps you will be the one God uses to reintroduce them to the greatest Friend of all, lying there in the manger.