The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
When I was six years old, what I wanted most for Christmas was a bride doll. I had seen the doll in the local Woolworth’s. She wore a dress with a billowy white skirt, trimmed with lace and sequins. Her long perfectly curled hair was adorned with a jeweled crown from which hung a long lacy veil. I so yearned for that bride doll that I actually set aside and stopped playing with my one doll, “Susie.”
My parents, like most farmers of their day, had to pinch pennies just to make sure bills were paid. I realize what they had felt as their little girl kept hoping Santa would bring her a fancy bride doll like the ones at the department store.
On Christmas morning a large box lay under the tree with my name on it. My heart raced as I knew that Santa had fulfilled my request. I tore off the paper and opened the box. Inside lay Susie. She was wearing a simple white dress, which had a plain net over-skirt tied around the waist.
I had once given Susie a very bad haircut, and on the top of that unruly hair was now a ring of artificial white roses with a short piece of netting attached to the back. I looked at Susie and my heart was filled with disappointment.
All I saw was my old Susie, not the fancy bride doll. I did not see the devotion and the time my mother had taken to sew Susie a bride dress. I did not know that my father had wired together roses from an artificial bouquet of flowers that had stood in our living room to make her crown. I did not see the love nor the sacrifice my parents made to bring me happiness.
So it is with Jesus and his parents, as we hear in the Gospel for this Holy Family Sunday. We are told that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple with “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” This was the poor family’s sacrifice for their firstborn child — the ones who couldn’t afford a lamb to sacrifice. And no noble priests met them as they came in, only a very old man and woman.
The Nativity sets are still up in our churches this weekend. Many of them will most likely contain the figure of Jesus that has been there for years. Maybe someone has touched up some of the nicks or repaired a broken finger, but it is the same figurine. However in the sameness do not miss the heart of Christmas when we commemorate the day that Jesus began his life in a simple stable, no frills, no sparkles. He first entered the Temple, the house of God his Father, in much the same way – no frills, not sparkles.
Like the people of old, we have had our days of disappointment because we want Jesus to come among us as the regal King, dressed in designer garments and wielding mighty power. As you look at that simple figurine be reminded that he came among us quietly and simply. In that stable began a love story and his unfolding life of sacrifice so profound, it continues to transform us.
On this first Sunday after Christmas, may you recognize your true heart’s desire as you celebrate Jesus, who has come among us; Jesus ever ancient, even new.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.