“Wow, you got a lot of stuff in your cart Father! Is that all for you?”
That’s what my childhood friend Teddy Merkle said as he pulled up behind me with his shopping cart in the checkout line. I was shopping at Binnys and my basket was full with bottles of booze and a couple of sticks of beef jerky. I didn’t see him coming. I was in the middle of emptying my cart unto the conveyor belt so that the cashier could scan the glass bottles. I blushed a little knowing that I had so many items. It was my day off, and I was glad I wasn’t wearing my clerical collar.
I turned around and said, “Hey Teddy, Merry Christmas. Good to see you. No, this is not all for me. I don’t drink. Actually these are all Christmas presents. The nice thing is that one size fits all.”
I then realized I wasn’t thinking fast enough. I could have fibbed and told Teddy that the two cases of red wine were for church. But, I don’t think he would believe that we would serve such a good vintage at Mass, even on Christmas Eve. I could have told him it was part of a creative evangelization project where we were encouraging folks to regularly attend Mass. We would be known as the “church with the good wine.” (Just kidding.)
“How have you been Teddy?”
“Well, it’s been crazy,” he said. “I have been doing a lot of running around trying to get ready for Christmas. We don’t even have our tree up yet at home. It’s starting to dry out and the needles are falling off on the porch. The kids are home from school this week. Two of them are sick with fevers. We are pumping them with fluids and chicken soup; I hope that they will rebound before Santa comes.”
I could hear the stress in his voice. His face looked tired, and his eyes looked heavy. He had done all these Christmas preparations before; but this year things seemed more challenging.
“I have to admit, I’m a little overwhelmed Father.
I’ve tried to stay on top of stuff, but it’s hard with all that has to get done. There’s so little time.”
I tried to comfort him by saying, “Teddy, don’t worry. If it happens, it happens. Don’t stress-out over it. If it was meant to be done, it was meant to be done. Christmas will happen even if we are ready or not; and that’s okay.”
I could sense he gained a little relief from my words as he dropped his shoulders. It looked like some of the holiday pressure was off.
“Teddy, try to enjoy it. The trees, the cookies, the cards, the parties, the presents, the decorating are all good things; but remember what it’s all about.”
“Sounds like you are giving me a preview of your Christmas homily,” Teddy said.
“Well, sort of” I said. “It is always good to take it out for a test drive if you can.”
I then told him, “I remember a funny Christmas TV commercial a few years ago. The scene opens with a little boy, about 8 years old, opening his presents by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. His family is gathered around him in the family room. He holds one of his presents in his hands. His mom tells him to go ahead and open the box. He quickly tears through the wrapping paper as fast as he can. His little body is shaking with excitement. He yells out with all the power in his little lungs, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Then the boy pauses for a moment. There is dead silence. He regains his composure, and looks to his mom and dad and sheepishly asks, “What is it?”
I saw a smirk surface on Teddy’s face. “That cute Father,” he said. “I know what you mean.”
We can easily forget what we got. Christmas is all about how God so loved the world that he gave us the gift of His Son. In return, we get to say back to God, “Yes! Yes! Yes!
May our hearts and homes be filled with the joy that the Christ-child brings to the world.
“Teddy do you want some beef jerky?” I asked, willing to split my purchase with hm. “Why don’t we get a burger instead?” he suggested.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I said, just to annoy him.
“Oh stop that Father!” Teddy said. “Keep that up and Santa’s going to take you off his list.”
The Staff of Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph wish you a very Merry to Christmas. We hope that you will be able to celebrate the wonderful birth of Jesus with our parish community. May these holy days be filled with joy and peace that the Christ-child brings to the world.