The day was cold, (it was December after all), but as usual, there was not a flurry of snow in sight. That's common for South Louisiana; so, all things being equal, it would be a normal Christmas Day in my family's home where we lived not so far from a bayou or two. Or so everyone thought.
Did armadillos aggravate the dog next door? Most possibly. Did possums hiss from under the porch? Undoubtedly. Did an alligator waddle through the neighborhood? Perhaps, but he really should have been hibernating. However, none of that was the cause of consternation that Christmas.
Just as we were about to sit down to dinner, Mama looked over at Daddy and said, "It's time. We've got to get to the hospital." The adults launched into action. Boo, my maternal grandmother, kept my brother Jay and sister Pam busy, ushering them out of the way. They waved goodbye as Mama and Daddy headed off. Yep, Number Three was on the way. That was me, by the way. I’ve always known how to make a great entrance!
So I was born on Christmas Day, causing a bit of pandemonium, but I know Mama was happy. What name would they give me? Daddy and Aunt Helen, my mom's sister, wanted to call me Mary Chris. That seems just perfect, now doesn't it? But since my last name is Moss, Mama thought she might spare me some teasing by naming me after my maternal great grandmother instead.
People sometimes ask me, “But isn't it hard to have your birthday on Christmas?" Mama always made sure that I received two presents: one for Christmas, one for my birthday. She never combined the two celebrations; she always kept them separate to make sure I wouldn't feel short-changed. On the contrary, actually: I always felt like some sort of celebrity. I didn't understand it when I was really small, but eventually I realized why. People would always exclaim with delight about the date of my birth. After all, I was born on the same day as Jesus! Who could beat that? It was a gift I'd been given by the Lord, and I'm reminded of it every year, and renew my gratitude every year. I can remember decorating for the holidays, pulling out our small Christmas crèche, looking long and hard at the tiny infant and thinking, "He is what Christmas is all about, I've got to put the nativity in a place of honor."
As a child, I knew Santa Claus brought presents, and Mr. Bingo, the charming snowman from Maison Blanche, the large department store in New Orleans, had a ready wit, but they paled in comparison to Jesus. His is the true story of our God who came down to become one of us, born in a stable, subject to all that we face, even death. So the whole world rejoices at Christmas because God cared so much that he wanted to be with us, our Emmanuel. By the grace and goodness of God, we understand what Christmas is all about.
Yes, I enjoy the lights, the nostalgia, the gifts, and all the decorations, but they are not the center of the celebration. Jesus is. God gave us the greatest gift when he gave us Jesus. And we give gifts to our loved ones to mirror God the Father's giving of this greatest of gifts given for the life of the world.
Since Jesus is the center of this whole celebration, it is a joy to acknowledge it with the festive greeting, Merry Christmas! Some may feel that one must use the politically correct term, Happy Holidays, but since Christ truly is the greatest gift and this holy day is a celebration of his birth, I recommend using a hearty Merry Christmas as your greeting of choice, especially when greeting fellow Christians.
To get you started and to wish you all the blessings and joy of Jesus' birth, we made this brief video as an exclamation of joy to bless you for the Christmas season. Share it with all those you love who believe, and celebrate Christ's birth and coming into the world this Christmas!
And if you'd like to tell us what Christmas means to you, please send us your thoughts and reflections, or even just a simple prayer to the Infant King. It will be a blessing to receive them all!
Sr. Mary Martha Moss, FSP