Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Christians

They're planning their descent into the churches. At Christmas time a lot of unfamiliar faces show up at Mass. They jostle for seats and are a little louder than the regular Mass-goers, and they've forgotten when to stand and when to kneel. Most of us know we'll have to arrive early for Christmas Mass if we want to get "a good seat."

There's a temptation to get annoyed with these people. They only show up at Christmas and Easter ... They probably don't contribute to the parish either financially or in the form of "time and talent" ... They fill up the parking lot, mash their coats and body heat against us in the overcrowded pews, and can be irritating enough that they leave us with the vague, uncomfortable feeling that we need to get to confession even though we just went.

That's the temptation. But we don't have to give in to it. Now that I'm in the fold of the Catholic Church, no longer a stranger and sojourner but a citizen among the saints and not-so-saintly, I give tearful thanks for the gift of my faith, and I pray that at least one of those Christmas Christians will be touched by God this year, touched so deeply that he or she will be moved to venture back to Mass in January. Maybe again in the spring. Maybe on a weekly basis by June. Into the confessional by next September? Back into full communion with our one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Which one will it be? Is it that sweet woman behind me, the one with whom I'll exchange a sign of peace? The bored teenager sitting in front of us? Will it be the man who scowls as we slide into the pew, forcing him to move down and relinquish his spot on the aisle?

Since I don't know which one it will be, I pray that I will not be a stumbling block to whomever it is. I pray that I will not be the reason they go home and gripe about churchy hypocrites who say they're Christian but don't act like it. I pray that someone, somewhere, on Christmas Eve, will be touched by the Christ Child, and that I will not get in his way.

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