The Joy Christmas Eve
ACCORDING TO THE LITURGY, which remembers ancient Jewish ritual custom, a day is reckoned from sunset to sunset. Christmas Eve is truly Christmas with all the trimmings!
On this evening the youngest member of a family places the Christ Child in the manger, songs previously unsung resonate warmth, the fire burns, tree lights glow as does every candle on the mantle, in the window, and on the doorstep. In my family, we enjoy a simple yet special supper. When I was a child we opened one gift this night. After all, it was a long wait till Midnight Mass.
Times change, customs change. But, by all means celebrate!
If you are single and celebrate alone this night, perhaps a good book of Christmas stories will fill your soul with joy. Peter Vance Orullian has an interesting collection entitled At the Manger: The Stories of Those Who Were There. The stories at first seem stilted, rather awkwardly written, not always as our faith teaches. One is tempted to set the book down. Slowly, the stories weave together, and in the final story the Christmas Eve scene is fulfilled. “Other faces were familiar to me. Standing in their company, and all of us attendant to the beautiful child, I felt a quiet within, a sureness, I had never known.…” Weeks after reading the book, I recalled “those who were there” even if the sharing is silent.
Each of us, alone in our identity, alone in the singular, unique way we stand before the little King in the manger, nevertheless senses the inner bond of all who find their way to the crèche. Here we are together. We may never have spoken, perhaps we never will, but here in the dark shadows of the stable—and in the shadows of the pillars of our churches—we sense one another. We know we share a common destiny. Our little Lord has come to call all of us close to his heart and take us home one day, but he also would have come for just one of us. So, during this holy night, I quietly wish my neighbors well, for I know they love as I do.
Ours is a universal Church. We can be there for everyone by the universality of our intentions, even when we are alone. Prayer knows no distance or boundaries. Our focus is the newborn child in the manger. Our lens is to lay at his feet our lives, our intentions, our interests, our material goods or lack of them, but especially whatever love we can muster.
Celebrate! By all means celebrate! Most of all, celebrate with worship!
Mary, the hour of your delivery has come! Emmanuel within you will now be Emmanuel in your arms, and you will let us hold him for a while till he needs your warmth and nourishment again. Can any joy compare with the joy of his needing you? He who is Lord and King really made himself so small as to need you. Mary, when I’m holding him tonight, maybe he will show me, too, how he needs me. Allow me to be an instrument in his hand.
Frisk, M. J. (2005). Joyous Expectation: Journeying through Advent with Mary (pp. 115–118). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.