We’ve just finished the Christmas concert season of the various choirs in which my daughter sings. I have delighted over the last few weeks at the sounds of the choirs, admittedly taking particular delight in a solo Elena sang in one of her Chamber Choir songs and in her piano accompaniment of one of the songs for her High School Concert Choir. (It was a piece for four hands on piano and so she provided the second set of hands, playing with the choir’s normal accompanist.) There is something about young voices lifted in song that warms the heart and brings smiles (if not tears) to the face.
One of the songs Elena’s Chamber Choir particularly enjoyed singing this year was In the Bleak Midwinter, the lyrics to which are taken from a poem by the 19th Century English poet, Christina Rosetti. The last verse of the song asks a question we all might be asking in these final days before Christmas – What can I give Him? What gift can I lay before the creche on Christmas morning? The song not only asks the question, but provides perhaps the best answer one can provide to the question:
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.
It was only recorded with a flipvideo, so there are some imperfections in the sound, but you can listen to the Minnetonka Chamber Choir singing In the Bleak Midwinter here.
As we continue our observance of the Octave of Christmas, my friend Gerry suggests for reflection the following lines by Thomas Merton:
The mystery of Christmas lays upon us all a debt and an obligation
to the rest of mankind and to the whole created universe. We who
have seen the light of Christ are obliged, by the greatness of the
grace that has been given us, to make known the presence of the
Savior to the ends of the earth. This we will do not by preaching the
glad tidings of His coming, but above all by revealing Him in our
lives. Christ is born to us today, in order that He may appear to the
whole world through us.
Christmas Day is behind us (at least until next year), but our task of making known the presence of Christ continues, not only during this Christmas Octave, but every day of the year. And so we need to continually reflect on the question: What am I doing to reveal Christ in my life?
Merry Christmas! Today we celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord. “For unto us, a child is born.”
In the midst of the gift opening, the big Christmas morning breakfast, and the celebration of the day, take time to marvel at what exactly is is that we celebrate today. In the words of the theologian Michael Himes:
The great mystery hidden from all generations and revealed in the Incarnation is God’s secret ambition. From all eternity God has wanted to be exactly like you and me. This is the ultimate statement of the goodness of being human, the rightness of humanity. The immense dignity of the human person is at the heart of the Christian tradition because it flows directly from the doctrine of the Incarnation itself. Indeed, the Incarnation is the highest compliment ever paid to being human.
God becomes human. What an amazing reality!
Pick up any newspaper and you will find reports of increasing hunger and homelessness. (famvin reported a couple of days ago that 9.1 million people died of starvation in 2008.) Talk to anyone associated with food banks or other organizations providing charitable goods and services and you will hear of the increasing difficulty of meeting the needs of the least among us. Food donations are drastically down, as are donations of toys to be distributed to needy children on Christmas and blankets and warm clothes for those without heated homes (or, indeed, without any homes at all). At the same time, the demand for services has risen.
At the beginning of Advent, famvin posted the Advent message of Greg Gay, C.M., Superior General of the Vincentians. The theme of his message was the line from Luke’s Gospel, “And there was no room for them” and the message invited reflection on Jesus’ solidarity with the poor and marginalized. A young Vincentian Lay Missionary, who is spending this Christmas in Ehtiopia where she is currently stationed, wrote this reflection on the theme of Fr. Gay’s letter:
Though I’ve heard the Nativity story countless times, rarely have I paused to consider this phrase as it relates to the true meaning of Christmas. What does it mean on Christmas, in our world today, in my life, that Jesus was born into and lived a life among the rejected, the outcasts, the unwanted? When I am preparing for Christmas, I don’t know that I have ever paused during the frenzy to consider those I have told, “Sorry, there is no room for you in my life….I know all too often I have been one of those innkeepers turning away the Holy Family.
How can I keep expanding my heart and never post a ‘no vacancy’ sign?
A question all of us should ask ourselves as we approach our Christmas Eve festivities tonight and our Christmas Day celebrations tomorrow. For many of us that will include lots of good food and the giving and receiving of presents, in an environment of warmth and good cheer. As we enjoy all we have, how have we supported the Holy Family in their time of need?