by Ken Rolheiser
Keeping Christ in Christmas and the New Year

Sometimes it seems the love and joy of Christmas disappears by New Year. It’s as if it just goes in one year and out the other.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [God with us]” (Isaiah 7:14).

God with us is more than a pious feeling we get from the “feel good” Christmas stories. These stories illustrate the very compassion that makes us more like Christ.

There is a story about a Christmas pageant where all the children held up big letters spelling CHRISTMAS LOVE. As the children sang "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on. A mother relates how her one little girl innocently held her letter upside down. So as the word began to appear CHRISTWA… the snickers grew.

As the song drew to a close a hush fell over the scoffers and the audience as the message sank in: CHRISTWAS LOVE.

Another little story illustrates the miracle of love that seems to embody Christmas. In an orphanage in Denmark the children looked forward to Christmas morning. “Each child would be given their one and only Christmas gift; small, single orange.”

The headmaster of the orphanage was very stern and caught one little girl creeping down the stairs to catch a peek at the Christmas tree. For her punishment she would receive no orange on Christmas morning. The little girl ran back to her room broken-hearted. 

Christmas morning she stayed in her bed as the other children went to see the Christmas tree and receive their one gift of an orange. Later, as the children returned, the little girl was surprised to be handed a napkin. As she unfolded the napkin she found an orange all peeled and sectioned.

"How could this be?" she asked. "It was then that she found how each child had taken one section from their orange and given it to her so that she, too, would have a Christmas orange."

And what happens when we take Christ out of Christmas, and out of our schools and courts? And why can’t we have Christmas in our hearts the whole year through?

“The incarnation does not mean that God saves us from the pains of this life. It means that God-is-with-us. For the Christian, just as for everyone else, there will be cold, lonely seasons, seasons of sickness, seasons of frustration, and a season within which we will die. Christmas does not give us a ladder to climb out of the human condition. It gives us a drill that lets us burrow into heart of everything that is and, there, find it shimmering with divinity.”  Avery Dulles

(475 words)