I write this by candlelight after tucking the younger children into bed. They may or may not have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, though my daughter might. She only recently discovered the story of The Nutcracker as she and I watched the ballet performed on television recently. But they are asleep and the rest of the house will soon join them. The Holy Father is delivering his Christmas message on the local Catholic radio station and I am leaving for Midnight Mass soon. Cookies are out and waiting for Santa where I suspect they will be nothing but crumbs in a few hours once Mass is ended. Santa may even consider a glass of Christmas cheer before bed at that point. Who can say?
There is so much one could write and I have considered writing much. Then I considered writing just a few lines. In the end I decided to post three of my favorites for this Christmas in the hope that my readers would enjoy them and take each message into their hearts.
The first is a prayer for Christmas morning composed by one of my favorite writers, Henry Van Dyke. It’s a message that contains much clarity in its simplicity and a prayer worth repeating in the morning. The second was written by John of Chrysostom, a saint of the early Church who died in 407. I love his at times poetic and lyrical description of the Incarnation, bringing the many facets of the reality into meaning. And finally, the third is a passage from Isaiah of the Old Testament. It is a reminder that the birth we celebrate has been long foretold and was anticipated for much longer than the four weeks of Advent we just experienced; this passage was written 700 years before Christ’s birth.
Merry Christmas to you all. It’s time I start getting ready for the brief walk under the silent stars to my parish.
A Prayer for Christmas Morning
by Henry Van Dyke
The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.
Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wisemen.
Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
And the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.
from A Treasury of Christmas Stories.
edited by James S. Bell, Jr.
Harold Shaw Publishers, 1993
What shall I say? And how shall I describe this birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant. He who sits upon the sublime and heavenly throne now lies in a manger. And he who cannot be touched, who is without complexity, incorporeal, now lies subject to human hands. He who has broken the bonds of sinners is now bound by an infant’s bands. But he has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and abject humiliation the measure of his goodness. For this he assumed my body, that I may become capable of his word; taking my flesh, he gives me his spirit; and so he bestowing and I receiving, he prepares for me the treasure of life. He takes my flesh to sanctify me; he gives me his Spirit, that he may save me.
Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken. For this day paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused and spread on every side – a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and we now hold speech with angels.
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He has come on earth, while being fully in heaven; and while complete in heaven, he is without diminution on earth. Though he was God, he became man, not denying himself to be God. Though being the unchanging Word, he became flesh that he might dwell amongst us.
~ St. John Chrysostom
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)