Capturing the Magic

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When I was a small child, Christmas was a magical time. Surrounded by family, the day was a kaleidoscope of bright lights, good smells, warm feelings, gifts, and gaiety. As a parent, I tried to recreate that wonder by having all the things I loved as a child. But now the kids are grown and too often the reason seems to be missing from the season. I blame the commercialism, I blame the times, and I even blame the Church for empty rites. But the truth is, the emptiness is in me, not in the Church. I need to search my heart to discover just what it was that gave Christmas such a magical feeling.

One of the most wonderful Christmas memories I have was as a new bride stationed in Germany with my soldier husband. That first year we went on a retreat for Christmas. Homesick for family, with few presents, no tree, no home cooked meal, I wondered where the sense of Christmas would come from. To my delight, it was a special time filled with a sense of love and the presence of God that I have sought ever since. The festive decorations, the carols and midnight lights on the mountain were stimulating, but the externals didn’t matter. We were family together there in His Holy Presence.

It is that presence that we’ve waited for during Advent. To rediscover Christmas we need to open our hearts; we need see God around us. For some of us, the images of the baby in the manger remind us of the new life, new possibilities that God gives us. Others may see heavenly glory in the brightly colored lights. The aroma of fresh pine may call forth the beauty of God’s creation all around us. The joy of our loved ones when they open their gifts recalls our own joy at the gift of God’s love. And the loving community of family mirrors the love we find when we join God’s family.

God presented himself to mankind as a helpless baby and didn’t find even a common stable to mean for his presence. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but here you are, lying in a manger in the stable of my heart.” Here you are God, a baby in a manger, a hand reaching out to help, a voice speaking tender words. Here you are God, dark green pines and sparkling snow on a star studded night. Here you are God, the laughter of family, the hug from a child, the smile on the face of a friend.

And here am I Lord. Just as the shepherds came empty handed to the lowly stable made sacred by your presence, so I come this day to your holy temple. They were content to just be with you. I look about, open the eyes and ears of my heart, and find you waiting for me. I am also content to just be near you. The church, the building, has become the Church, the family of God, and together we receive this impossible gift we have been given. This is the magic of Christmas.

Linda Crowley