One of the things I occasionally missed about being single was peaceful Christmas Eves. I have always felt that Christmas Eve was just meant for quiet contemplation of the Incarnation, before the celebration kicks in. Once I got married to a Latin American, I discovered that Christmas Eve is akin to New Years Eve with the celebration beginning before Midnight Mass, and stretching far beyond it with dancing and feasting and opening gifts till the wee hours. This year, by happy circumstance, I received a gift from Jesus, a quiet Christmas Eve.
It began in the morning with Mass at a local Monfort shrine (see the lovely Nativity Scene) where Father encouraged us to turn off the crudeness on TV (Amen to that!) and run over to the bookstore, and buy St. Joseph Communications CDs for only $3.00 to give to family and friends for Christmas. Great idea, I thought, so I sped over there, girls in tow, to stock up on these treasures at such a great price.
Like: 7 Reasons to be Catholic by Peter Kreeft (good for those Evangelicals in your family who used to be Catholic), How to bring Fallen-Away Catholics Back to the Church by Scott Hahn (they know my family!), Making Sense Out of Suffering by Scott Hahn (they know me!)and Fr Larry Richards on Confession, (that's a special intention). Father Roy said to give these in our family's stockings after praying to the Holy Spirit. He didn't mention ducking as they found them, and sent them flying past our heads! Sigh
We spent the afternoon wrapping gifts in front of the fireplace, with carols playing. Did I ever mention my all time favorite record, em, cassette tape is "Christmas on the Rhine"?It's a collection of traditional German carols sung by a choir, and best of all, it begins and ends with those venerable old bells ringing. It always transports me to my childhood Christmases, and all the magic. These must be the carols Pope Benedict grew up singing, like "Es Ist ein Ros' entsprungen" (Lo, How a Rose is Blooming) and "Ihr Kinderlein Kommet" (O Come Little Children). Germans do have a gift for celebrating Christmas!
We ate a simple salmon dinner, a poor facsimile of the 12 fish dinner my Italian aunts would prepare. As the rest of the family took naps, Christina and I went together to serenade the Baby Jesus after sunset at the life size outdoor creche at the Shrine. I knew it was going to be very special simply by all the trouble it took to find her shoes, and coat, and convince her to get into the van. The Enemy hates it when we love Jesus. It must have really burned him when during "O Come All Ye Faithful" Christina struggled from my arms, and went up to visit with the baby Jesus in the manger. So many people, other than her mother had tears in their eyes that night!
She was an angel later at Midnight Mass, where we had to stand in the vestibule (when, for once, we didn't need to be there!) but we were glad to be there as the girls say, "when Christmas happens". I was so happy, after this perfect Christmas Eve, I wanted to stay awake just to savor it. I re-read parts of an old favorite, "The Day Christ Was Born" by Jim Bishop, to make the details of the Nativity come alive in my mind.
Sometimes, Jesus, I don't need words. I just smile up at You, and You understand.