I am Catholic. Go ahead, formulate your judgements, marginalize me all you want, I'll wait. Finished? Good. With that out of the way, let me start by wishing all of you a very, merry, Christmas.
Note, I did not ask you to convert to Christianity, or demand that you recognize my faith or we can't be friends. What I did was wish to you the feeling I have as a Catholic when I celebrate Christmas. I did not ask you to buy me a gift, nor did I tell you we should go shopping together. Put away the credit card, and save your resentment for all the other people in the world who will save you a sideways look when there isn't a present waiting for them under the tree. Merry Christmas is a phrase with great power completely removed from the notion of buying presents for anyone, and in it's own way is a little bittersweet, hiding a darkness few wish to realize.
In case you were unaware, my faith recognizes that our creator sought to make a connection with us by sending himself to us in the form of a human being named Jesus Christ (it's where we get the name Christmas). At this time of year true Catholics celebrate the birth of that man, while recognizing he came for one reason, and that reason was to die on our behalf. In fact, it would always be known that the Savior of mankind would die at the hands of those he came to save. It's the ultimate plot twist, he's the Obiwan Kenobi to our Luke Skywalker. By subjecting himself to a life of trials and tribulations with only one goal in mind, man's salvation, Jesus Christ set the example for which we should all be grateful. His lesson was fulfillment comes from sacrifice, simple as that. So when we say merry Christmas, what we mean is, stay happy, even in the knowledge that life is hard work whose reward is death, and be glad that before you arrived, there were people making sacrifices for you.
This is not an easy lesson for children to understand and it's not a message for them. It's the world of the grown ups, the ones who make sure Christmas is a wonderful time for the kids. I have parents who fight near constantly, even in their eighties. Yet at Christmas, they made sure we had toys. Year 'round we had food, and clothes. Our house was dry and generally rodent free. All these necessary comforts provided by their sacrifices. God bless them for their efforts which I will never be able to pay back. God bless them for following Christ's example and instead of living for themselves, they gave up their lives for my brother, sister, and me. Merry Parenting, everyone!
These were sad times for me, worrying if I would be enough for my son, yet glad he was no longer in the center of the turmoil. I look happy in the picture, don't I? You bet I was. I had inflated a Christmas decoration in our living room and my son loved it! All the while I was wondering how I could make the time good for him, growing up without a mom, especially at Christmas. I cried often in the realization of how tragic a situation this was for him, tragedy he was unaware of because he knew no other situation to compare it to. As I look back, I feel great, not for the vacancy of his mother, but for the memory of the work I put into raising him. Every year my heart grew three sizes at Christmas, a feeling only achieved through sacrifice.
Life is hard. Get used to it. Fight the darkness and make it fun. Merry Christmas, I say with a smile on my lips, and a tear dwelling in the corner of my eye. Merry Sacrifice, Merry Selflessness, and Merry Giving, I shout as well. I say Merry Christmas to remind us all of the universal blessing bestowed by hardship, the blessing of thinking of others first. This is what the Catholic knows, that we are called to give without exception and only when we follow that path do we find happiness.