On Being Child
“Christmas Is For Children” goes the title of an old Christmas pop song.
Christmas – is for children Just for children Grown-up’s say Santa’s down the chimney That’s for children Like the reindeer And the sleigh
My mother would tell this story to her now adult children as Christmas approached. As a child, she had read in a book that if you left your socks hanging on the foot of your bed, you would get surprises at Christmas. She told her older sister, and so they both left socks hanging on the foot of their beds. And nothing happened.
So, the next year they tried again. That’s what it said in the book. And nothing happened.
Mom would tell the story, laughing at the end of its telling at how silly but cute they were to believe. The pair of sisters didn’t feel gypped in anyway. Christmas was still wonderful, and the incidents were just shrugged off as something silly in a book that made for a funny story in later life. Things were different in the 1930s in the Philippines.
One Christmas tradition she found tough was going to sunrise Mass from the feast of the Immaculate Conception until Epiphany. The fast before Communion was three hours in those days. Filipinos have a very long Christmas celebration.
Christmas is different everywhere, but in the setting of a pandemic, it will be changed everywhere, even with Santa as a designated essential worker. I can’t think of any other event that is so steeped in traditions at so many levels – national, municipal, family.
Each city has different lights, each home has its special tree decorations, each family has its Christmas menu for Christmas dinner. We take so much pleasure in the securely predictable.
The pandemic has put limits on attendance at Christmas Mass, and on the number of guests at Christmas dinner. With the restrictions on non-essential travel, many people will not make it home for Christmas. It will be very different this year.
It may be that to survive and rise above the pandemic’s effect on Christmas, we need to regain that openness of children, and free ourselves from our traditional expectations, to find the joy in the generosity of the Word made flesh.
At that same hour, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said. “ I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Luke 10:21)
Being a “child of God” is my favourite role. We are called brothers and sisters in Christ, citizens and heirs of heaven and more, but for me, to be child is best. Children are free of prejudice and free of prejudging expectations. They can be spontaneously creative, and open to learning and adapting.
The freedom to believe is seen in the seventy “infants” in Luke’s Gospel (10: 21) who returned after casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They did not have the restrictions of the disbelief held by the wise and intelligent in what seemed impossible.
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. (1 John 3:1)
To be the child of somebody is to be able to depend on somebody else, rather on myself. To be loved by someone who is always dependable like a parent is comforting, for no one has the consistency of a parent. Imagine God as parent.
No wonder I cherish being “child.”
The old pop song goes on:
That same tale is told
Every Christmas Eve again
We may think we’re old
But our hearts can almost
Christmas – is for children
But aren’t we all children
That electric train
That no one could tempt Papa with
Will someone explain
Why it’s all that Papa
Will bother with
I guess Christmas
Is for children
But aren’t we all children
(Sammy Cahn / Jimmy Van Heusen)