It’s a quarter til six as I sit here with the Hound of the Basketballs on Christmas morning. I’ll probably head back to bed myself in a little bit, but dogs need to go out when they need to go out, so I got up early, lest she leave us an unwelcome gift to start the day. And since I’m awake anyway, why not put the time to use here?
This is the fifth Christmas I’ve spent without my folks, and the knowledge tempers my excitement — I suspect it always will. And like a film, I find my mind crosscuts to a jail cell somewhere in Kentucky, where my brother is being held until his assignment to the prison where he will likely live out his days. There is much missing now. Still, as I sit here and look at the tree, I’m reminded of Dr. Seuss’s line, that Christmas “came just the same.” And I’m glad of that.
One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the sheer unlikeliness of it all. A kid from the boondocks — “Did anything good ever come from Nazareth?” — is the Incarnation, born in a manger. And this Incarnation redeems people as flawed as I am — and I pray, as flawed as my brother as well, even as he pays his debt to Caesar. This redemption, of course, is the real Gift, of which the ones we share are the palest shadows, welcome as they are.
And maybe that’s why my favorite Christmas carol is what it is. It reminds us that Christ came “for poor on’ry people”, and in the long run, that’s all of us. So here’s the song, in the version to which we would listen when I was a kid. And if you like, you can consider it a small gift I share with you. And I thank you for the gift of your attention — it means more to me than you might imagine.