Old friends of ours in Toronto have a family tradition of going to The Nutcracker together, every single December. When they gather around Thanksgiving, they get out their calendars and blackberries, to find a common date to go to their Christmas ballet. Their kids are our Liam’s and Mika’s ages, and so nowadays the question is raised about whether boyfriends/girlfriends will be invited along. This year, their daughter was excited about getting a ticket for her young man. Their son, who is dating someone new, was unsure about inviting her into this family tradition. His mom remarked on her son’s deliberations: “So, you two aren’t Nutcracker-ready yet, eh?”
Lots of us have a favourite Christmas event or ‘special’ that’s become a ritual. It’s part of getting ready. Maybe you watch A Christmas Carol or How The Grinch Stole Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life? We tune in to our Christmas traditions perennially, even when we’re on our own, layering new emotions onto the experience, year by year. More feelings mix with memories of who we once watched it with, where and when – as now becomes then.
Maybe you saw your ‘special’ show first, in brand new Christmas pyjamas when you were six? And was it before or after the thrill of opening that one Christmas Eve present? You know, I never saw the ending of Charles Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol until I was an adult, because my siblings and I were all packed off to bed early on Christmas Eve, ostensibly so we’d get a couple of hours sleep before Midnight Mass. Eventually I realized that 8 to10pm on December 24th was when our parents constructed the complicated presents, searched out an open drugstore to buy batteries, furiously wrapped boxes and then stuffed all my dad’s diamond plaid knee socks with bulging gifts and oranges.
We each have our own Christmas memories and ‘special’ traditions, don’t we? So why are we here? Even those of us who aren’t often here, during the year?
I think we’re here, because this Christmas Eve celebration by the creche, with candlelight and Silent Night, is our Western Christian family tradition. And we want our Christmas to be part of something bigger than just us. This is the Christmas special tradition to which everyone is invited. We’re here because we’re all ready to be fed the ever-enchanting story. We need to hear it once a year – in the dark of the year. We’re so ready to let the story lift our eyes towards the Light. To follow that star and the angels and shepherds and wise men on our ritual journey to the stable where Hope is reborn.
As my colleague Bruce Sanguin wrote: “It’s a wonderful story. The people are suffering. They pray to their God. God hears their prayers and is drawn by love and compassion to enter into the realm of Creation. God is born in a baby, to Mary and Joseph, simple peasants who represent both the plight and possibility of the human condition. They discover their worth and dignity and their son grows up to proclaim the worth and dignity of every human being, in God’s eyes.”
Every one of us who has ever gazed into a baby’s eyes is susceptible to being changed by this story. It offers us a gift we really want in our modern world: the recovery of childhood hope and re-enchantment. We give ourselves over to the traditional mixture of Luke’s and Matthew’s birth stories for Jesus, as inseparable to us now as rum and eggnog. We go with the donkey and wise men, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, without concern for history or factuality. This story about baby Jesus, weaves us a red and green Christmas-coloured blanket of collective memory and imagination, to warm our Spirit for the New Year.
We are here, I think, because we crave to sing as One, our voices echoing together with the heart-throbbing organ pipes, embodying our newborn hope. Our voices together, singing words resurrected from our childhoods, drawing us closer to each other in human Communion. We are ready to sing and to ‘believe’ that a saviour is born – among us! Our Hope for the world is renewed tonight.
Whatever our family stories and special events, the Christmas rebirth of hope in baby Jesus is our story in common – our encompassing tradition. And it’s not just a good story, it’s a God story that transforms us. When we participate in this story, it sweeps us away on a star into ‘new Creation’ consciousness, where love and compassion reign as the kin-dom comes. Jesus’ birth moves us, not just with emotion but into action. This saving myth re-enchants us in our collective human capacity to hope. It awakens our ability to envision and enact the peace-making that Jesus modelled throughout his life. It’s vision becomes our blueprint for the year to come. A year when all Creation might be born again and sing together. A year when each of us will have new opportunities to get a song of hope started. A new year when we might strike the right note with our own choices, setting lives in the key of peace.
Are you ready to enter the mystery of sacred story through candlelight, communion and carols? It’s time to allow ourselves to be God-led, via our imaginations, into our own heart’s hope for peace within and peace on this earth.
In our Christian family tradition, let our hearts open the darkness with a shining star. Let us choose to worship the babe above all else that beckons. Let us join the children in their enchantment with Christmas, so that his birth strikes the chord in each of us that will resound around the world – as Peace on Earth and good will towards ALL peoples!
Let the angels lead us singing, into this cosmic Christmas moment, of Communion in the enchanted, eternal now.