Sometimes when I sit down to write an article I can’t help but connect it to my life. When I was a child I was fortunate to have all of my grandparents. This included my Dad’s Dad, my Papou Sam. He was an interesting man, self-made by American standards, who had spent two decades in America as an illegal alien living and working under a false name. During his life he married, opened a successful business, and had three kids all without a formal education. He loved his adopted country America, and when Christmas came around he liked to remind each of us that in America it was Christmas everyday. Of course his perspective was educated in this regard. He had come from a poor village, where one’s daily meal was far from certain. He had lived in poverty, and in America he had found the Promised Land. I thought a lot about him and his favorite saying these last few weeks, and I hope you will excuse me when I borrow his phrase and apply it in a different manner.
Before I do that, however, I had to ask myself, what made my Grandfather’s statement true? The answer I came up with is pretty simple. America to him was a land of plenty. It was an extraordinary country in many ways. He experienced freedoms that were rare in his part of the world. His standard of living in the US would have been considered extravagant, even impossible to those in his home village, and he found out that through hard work he could transform his life. Now, I know that none of the statements I just made are absolute and true for everyone who comes to America. Yet for my Grandfather, who had lived through a famine and experienced hunger, America was truly an amazing place and Christmas came everyday.
Christmas represented many things for my Grandfather, and for us Christmas is a word that also brings to mind many things. In fact, when I say that in America Christmas is everyday, I would bet that most of you have an idea of what I mean. You immediately understand that what I am saying is that living in America is a gift in itself, it is a place where the most average among us lives like a King. Where luxuries like a car, a telephone, a computer, or an extra pair of shoes are considered commonplace, and we are literally swimming in material wealth.
Nevertheless, extolling and praising the attributes of America is not the purpose of my article. What I hope to instill in you is a similar appreciation for a similar statement. The way I would change my Grandfather’s saying is pretty simple, I’d say, Christmas comes everyday in the Church. As my Grandfather left his native country and traveled abroad, he literally went from darkness to light, from hunger to satisfaction, from without to plenty. His world was transformed and his life made a one hundred and eighty degree turn—where sorrow turned into rejoicing, and life, which had been a battle for survival, became a joy.
These same truths, these same realities, are found in Christ’s coming to earth, His nativity. Even our Church architecture speaks of this joy, this story for the ages. Our Sanctuary depicts the nativity vividly. We see Christ our Creator depicted for us in the dome of our churches, our Lord sitting high above us in the heavens surveying the earth below with His all-seeing eye, but the story does not end there. No, we see Christ sitting in the lap of His mother Mary, on the apse behind the altar. This reminds us that through Mary, Christ enters His creation as one of us, but the story does not end there. The story continues, for we see Christ standing alongside His creatures, and on our icon stand Christ is shown shoulder to shoulder with His saints, but the story does not end there. If we are attentive we know that the story still continues to this day. For we receive our Risen Lord every time we approach for Communion. Our Lord continues to be with us and in us. He is truly Emmanuel. We receive Him into our hearts each time we receive Holy Communion, and the story still does not end because after receiving Christ we share His life and love with the world. We become our own Nativity play.
Christ’s coming to the world, His bending of the heavens has transformed reality. Like America, the Church is a gift where darkness is now light, sorrow is now joy, emptiness is fullness. We are transformed, our lives can do a one-eighty degree turn, hope abounds, joy is possible, love is victorious, and death is life. Christmas is everyday in the Church. This fact is inescapable.
Unfortunately, this fact is forgettable. Just this week I forgot that Christmas was everyday. I became overwhelmed by my work, my responsibilities, and my problems. I caved inwards, and lost my perspective. I saw things negatively and I became troubled. What is worse is that I live at times untransformed, being transfixed by my shortcomings and stuck in my tendency to sin. I forget joy, hope, and even love. Yet we can be reminded that Christmas is everyday. Christmas is today and as we proclaim in the Church Christ is born and Him I glorify!
It’s funny, but Christmas in America is often forgotten on December 26. We will take down our trees, take out the trash, and stand in line to return the sweater that does not fit and the presents we do not like. We will forget Christmas, and we will look to the New Year and the making of resolutions. These too we will soon forget, and we will press on towards Valentine’s Day, etc.
Yet, shouldn’t we remember Christmas today and tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that? Christmas is everyday for us Christians. I hope the joy of Christmas stays with me, and I pray it stays with you, let’s try.
God Bless you all, Merry Christmas, Christ is Born, Glorify Him!