Merry Christmas from All Manner of Thing

December 25, 2008

We come at last to the Feast of the Nativity.  I wish everyone a very merry and blessed Christmas!

It is sad that we are forgetting how to celebrate Christmas. This year I searched a half-dozen stores for cards with a Christmas theme, but without success.  Instead of the joyful greeting “Merry Christmas!” I kept hearing the banal “Happy Holidays” or even the nauseating “Season’s Greetings”.  This happens, of course, because the reason for the feast has been set aside by many.  There are deep and complicated reasons for that, and there are reasons too why what remains grows ever more frantic and shallow.  Various strategies are tried to invest the day with some lingering significance.  We are even told to do our duty and “stimulate the economy” by buying things.  But a feast is not about economic stimulation; a true feast stands outside and above the world of practical affairs.

The only remedy that I know is to celebrate Christmas myself, and to encourage others to do so as well.  And so beginning today, and continuing each day throughout this twelve day festival, let us rejoice and be glad, and meditate on this great mystery: that a king humbled himself to come among us as a friend and a lover.

The Nativity of Christ

Behold: the father is his daughter’s son:
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein:
The old of years an hour hath not outrun:
Eternal life to live doth now begin.
The Word is dumb: the mirth of heaven doth weep:
Might feeble is: and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls, behold your living spring:
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace:
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring:
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than himself God doth not know:
Gift better than his God no man can see:
This gift doth here the giver given bestow:
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me:
God’s gift am I and none but God shall have me.

Man altered was by sin from man to beast:
Beasts’ food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh:
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field, wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

— St. Robert Southwell (1565-91)

If you need a little help to get the celebratory blood flowing, this should do the trick nicely:


In the tender compassion of our God
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

* * *    Luke 1:75-79    * * *

9 Responses to “Merry Christmas from All Manner of Thing”

  1. Janet Says:

    Thank you for that! And a blessed Christmas to you! We try very hard here to keep Advent and don’t decorate until Dec. 24, and most of our decorations are Nativity scenes.

    I wish I had started this before my kids were born. Y’all, have the opportunity to really think about the Christmas traditions that your children will grow up with. I’m a bit jealous.


  2. Christina A. Says:

    I managed to find a card that said “Merry Christmas Wishes” – I think I sent you the one that outright had the virgin and child on the front. I agree that it is really becoming hard to find good cards!

    As you will notice from the arrival date of your card…We are celebrating ALL 12 days of Christmas this year, and I’m hoping it will at least arrive before the epiphany!

    As for decorating traditions, we put up a nativity set but don’t put the baby Jesus into the manger until sundown on Christmas Eve. An additional part of that I’d like to do with our kids one day is the tradition I recently learned of where you keep a small pile of straw/moss etc. and at the end of each day in Advent, the kids get to put a piece of straw in the manger for each good deed they’ve done that day. Maybe you already do this, Janet?

    Blessings on you and family, Craig, this Christmas!


  3. Janet Says:

    My youngest is 21. For some reason, we never did the straw in the manger bit, but we had so many Advent traditions when my 4 where younger that we probably just didn’t have time!

    When I set up my nicest creche (which was my grandmother’s), I only put the stable and the ox in the place where it will all eventually be. Mary and Joseph and the donkey go on a chest in the living room and the sheperds and sheep go on a chest in the foyer. The kings and their camel go on the window sill next to my husband’s side of the bed, which is as far East as you can get in our house. The angel and Baby Jesus go in a drawer.

    When I get home from Midnight Mass, everbody except the kings goes to the creche. The kings should start travelling today, but now that the kids are gone, it’s hard to remember to move them every day. Several of my smaller Nativity sets have removable infants, so I put those out after Mass, also.


  4. cburrell Says:

    We still don’t have a creche. We are kicking ourselves that we didn’t buy one while in the Holy Land this year. Instead we bought a beautiful wooden statue of Virgin and Child, so we’ve placed it within a Christmas wreath and weaved lights through it. It’s a substitute, but not a terribly poor one.

    This year we tried to do the “Jesse Tree” during Advent. We had a set of readings, one for each day, and after each reading we put another ornament on our tree — or, more accurately, our shrub. We both thought it worked well as an Advent devotion.

    Thanks for sending a card, Christina. We look forward to receiving it. We only sent out 6 cards this year, mostly to family. Too busy and disorganized.

  5. KathyB Says:

    My family had a similar nativity tradition – the three kings would start in the dining room, then make it to the coffee table, then on top of the piano before finally reaching the creche on Epiphany.
    This year, with a toddler in the house the only creche we have on display is the Fisher Price version, and baby Jesus has been abducted in order to ride in toy cars down the Fisher-Price gas station garage ramp.
    I reconcile myself to this treatment by rationalizing that a garage is the modern equivalent of the stable.

  6. KathyB Says:

    We had to take down the A-do-do last night as the candles had dwindled to stubby lumps. We are bracing ourselves for the wrath to come.

    (For those unfamiliar with our family, “A-do-do” is toddlerspeak for Advent Wreath, and the munchkin is OBSESSED with it – to the point of muttering “A-do-do” in his sleep.)

  7. Janet Says:

    Thank you for explaining that, Kathy. I was thinking it might be some esoteric Canadian ritual object.


  8. cburrell Says:

    I guess I broke some conventions of courtesy by making an inside-joke in a public place. I do hope that the little guy is taking the steady disappearance of “A-do-do”s in stride. Perhaps he’ll be reassured by the fact that they’ll come again?

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