Growing up, I absolutely adored attending Mass at midnight on Christmas Eve. I have always felt a little deflated when our family moves to an area which does not celebrate midnight Mass at midnight, and rather “cheats” (in my mind’s eye) by holding that Mass at 10 PM. It has, and still remains, my favorite Mass of the year, even if I don’t traditionally attend that particular service anymore.
While we were at Midnight Mass, Santa would be leaving our gifts under the tree. When we returned home from church, we would excitedly open all our gifts and then head to bed – and, sleep in until late morning on Christmas Day, spending the day with good food and family.
Now that I am married, I have had to adjust my expectations of Christmas, and have had to let go of the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve, or the wee hours of Christmas morning. I think we actually settled the dispute of “when to open gifts” in true adult-fashion – through the use of “rock, paper, scissors.”
This year is the first year where I think my four year old truly gets the whole “Santa concept” – a big, jolly man leaving presents under the tree. So, shortly before Thanksgiving, as we were discussing “what comes next” in our year, I threw out Santa coming at Christmas. I then asked my son, “But, do you know why Santa is bringing gifts?” When he responded he didn’t, I might have committed a sacrilegious error by saying, “Because it is Jesus’ birthday! And, since Jesus is now in Heaven, He wants all of us to have gifts we would give Jesus!” So, Santa brings the gifts to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
That’s my story this year. And, probably next year, too.
I have found this year my success in keeping Christ at the center of Christmas is by keeping the reason for the season first and foremost in my mind.
My children will observe my approach to the holiday season, and will learn accordingly – if I am rushing around buying everything in sight, and running up our bills in an effort to buy everything under the sun, they won’t learn anything except to spend money. If I am rushing from one activity to the next to the next, without taking a moment to enjoy the lights on the Christmas trees, or the homes in our neighborhood, they will learn there is no point in enjoying the simple, beautiful pleasures around them.
If, instead, they see me take a time out on a daily basis to pray the fifteen recitations of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, quoted above, they will see that there are moments in which faith takes precedence over the materialism.
If they see me lovingly packaging and mailing gifts for others, they will realize there is a time to dedicate showing love and affection toward others.
If they help me bake goodies to give to others, they will learn how much fun it is to plan, and follow through on, creating something solely for the purpose of another’s benefit.
Using Advent as a stepping stone to prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas has been integral in keeping Christ at the center. Because ultimately, without His life, death, and resurrection, there would be no reason for this holiday season – secular or religious!
This article is appearing as part of the CWBN Blog Hop, hosted on the Siena Sisters’ landing page on Reconciled to You. Check out some other spectacular writers, and their approach to keeping Christ in Christmas as we approach this special holy day!