Sunday, November 25, 2007


Oh yes siree friends, I did it! I got a first-hand glimpse of black Friday. Had you been in Battle Creek, Michigan on the day after Thanksgiving, and had you also happened to stroll into the one main shopping mall in town, it is very possible you and I would have crossed paths outside the Aunt Annie’s pretzel store or Victoria’s Secret, where holiday spirit was being spread via soft core porn to the delight of more than a few adolescent, male patrons.

It is a standing tradition that my two sisters-in-law and I take off alone (did you catch that part? Alone, as without children) to drink fancy coffee, grab lunch, and if possible, knock a few items off our gift lists. It was a fascinating field trip, as always, fraught with revelations hardly earth shattering yet consistently startling nonetheless. What an odd occasion has Christmas become without the story of Jesus’ birth to define it!

What I saw were ginormous gingerbread men, candy canes, and price tags. I heard Santa songs, and echoing retail chatter (“Buy one get on half off …today only!”). I felt the momentum of spending now and thinking later, of baking, decorating, and celebrating what exactly? Winter? Credit Cards? Calories? Is it really possible to just ride a wave without splashing, at least a little, in the body of water that formed it? Can one truly become so distracted by shiny bows and paper that they inadvertently toss out, unopened, the only present worth receiving into an alleyway dumpster? Knowing myself, I’ll say "yes" most heartily and thank God for a Church prescribed fast to reign me in. Because I’ve never been skilled at fence straddling, it's always one side or the other, it’s always Christ or empty greed and disappointment.

“I wish there were a holiday where we fasted from just pasta,” my eight-year-old son, with an aversion to tomato sauce, told me this afternoon. And I suppressed the urge to go on and on and on to him about restraint, preparation, and prayerful eagerness. We shape the traditions around here, my obliging husband, Troy, and I, we set the tone by our actions and example. Over bowls of “fast appropriate” beans and rice, its up to us to build the excitement, to create our own familial momentum toward the wholly satisfying climax of Christ becoming man for our salvation. We fast with purpose, we fast out of obedience, we fast to heighten and reclaim the inexplicable joy of the Feast of the Nativity in its purest, unadulterated form.

They feed off our giddiness (those spongy, all eyes and ears, sons and daughters) over Christmas morning Liturgy, over a banquet to be shared with friends and family, over offering Christ’s love to those especially in need of it, and yes, the exchanging of gifts. Its up to us to structure the priorities our children will forever cling to so that one day, when they’re out killing time in a shopping mall, the nauseating, unsubstantial fluff of holiday mayhem will send them scurrying home to their refrigerators full of hummus, pita bread, and spinach for nourishment, to their prayer corners for guidance, and to the Church where everything finally makes sense, where cries of “Christ is Born, Glorify Him!” explain it all.


Kelleylynn said...

Oh! You "hit the nail on the head"...thank you for your way with words!

We were reading The St. Nicholas Secret tonight and your post affirmed all that the author writes about.
If you haven't read this great little book - it is a fast read and full of so much about St. Nicholas.
The author writes about his journey when he, as a boy, found out the true identity of "Santa Claus" and how he, as a grown man -- a father, finally found that child-like wonderment again in Saint Nicholas.
"Holy Father Nicholas, pray unto God for us"

Molly Sabourin said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely look into that book. We love St. Nicholas at our house! I know exactly what you mean by the joy of rediscovering "Child-like wonderment". What a gift!