A Christmas Memory

Posted December 8, 2010

Memories are usually recollections of episodes or events. But my most moving Christmas memory was more of a “non-event.” It was simply a quiet prayerful afterglow of a Christmas Midnight Mass a few years ago—just a quiet moment of fascinating awareness of the Babe of Bethlehem within me, born in my hands at the altar only moments before.

This momentous “non-event” was simply a moment of contemplation that fashioned within my soul a deep and surprising refocusing of my entire spiritual life. It was a birthing, within my spirit, of the same Incarnate Word, altar-birthed a few heart-beats earlier.  It was the Word made flesh—surprisingly perceived as personified Love. John’s enigmatic “God is Love” somehow appeared enfleshed within my very being.

All the spiritual theology that I had previously known only academically now became embodied experientially. Suddenly my distant Lord became “huggable” and “snuggable.” How astonishingly close God is to each of us, I mused; he’s not just there, ‘round yon Virgin—manger-boxed and gift-wrapped in swaddling clothes. He’s within—very really and very intimately “abiding” in us.

Amidst the holiday “hectivity,” I understood, as never before, the “Reason-for-the-Season.”  This tiny Bambino-God, this Prince of Peace, the Dove from above, gazes in pitying wonderment at our mindless, frenetic swirl of Yuletide busy-ness. From heaven he has brought to our peace-less planet a peace that is accepted only by “men of good will.”

The Magi, at the first baby shower, originated the gift-giving custom with their gold, frankincense and myrrh. We can offer better gifts from heaven’s bargain table—gifts like interludes of quiet prayer, praise, adoration and gratitude. His precious gift of Spirit-lofted peace, I realized, is ribboned with limitless love.

And—glory to God in the highest!—there were no strings attached!!

Fr. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.