Christmas Day

Fr. Gordon Hines, Rector, St. George's Anglican Church

Spending time reflecting on birth of Our Lord brought to my mind a true story once told by our now retired Archbishop, Robert Morse. It was about an event in the life of a friend of his who is a very successful New York architect and artist. Late one night he shared with the archbishop this story from his youth.

His friend said he was raised with his two older sisters in an orphanage for girls run by strict polish nuns. The reason he was the only boy in the convent was that the good sisters thought he was too young to be separated from the only family he had left; his two sisters; but he was, as the only boy in the convent placed apart and sent by himself to the local public school. He made friends with another lonely little boy who was the child of some impoverished Eastern European immigrants who were barely inking out a living.

When he was about eight or nine his public school friend asked him to his home for Christmas Eve.

The first person to arrive was a huge uncle who dragged in an ungainly Christmas tree that had been given away at the last moment by the salesman who couldn’t sell it and wanted to close the Christmas tree lot.

Then they all poured in: aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents, and stray friends. Everyone brought some thing for the tree – something of themselves: pieces of colored string, popcorn, cookies, food, tin stars cut from the bottom of cans, candles, old handmade ornaments, discarded Christmas bows, and brightly fastened wrapping paper, and personal gifts.

When the last decoration was placed on this now transfigured tree, the lights were lit!  They all formed a circle around it – hand in hand – old and young. He said they wept with joy at the wonder, the beauty, the Glory of their tree and sometimes now on Christmas Eve he remembers that happy circle of poor immigrants with tear filled glistening eyes – loving – laughing faces – lost in rapture, in awe before that beautiful tree. He said to the archbishop, “That was my first, my only glimpse of Heaven.”

Many things plague us, and strive to negate the meaning and purpose of life. But then we, like the orphan in the story, can, on occasion, have moments when we suddenly perceive the objective essence of beauty, of God’s presence in the everyday events of life. This is the essence of our religious experience, where we feel at home, knowing that we belong to something greater and glorious.  Our secular and materialistic society denies the restless young fulfillment through the Divine dimension of Glory in their lives. The Church exists that Glory might be experienced, discovered in God.

These moments can most often come to us at times when we give ourselves to God and each other. This is the whole meaning of Christmas, of love born among us; love as defined in Christ is self-giving.

May we give ourselves anew to Christ this Christ-Mass and into the New  Year. When we do we may capture a glimpse of our true Home, giving us encouragement to press on that we might behold our beloved, Christ Jesus.

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