Thursday, December 24, 2009

from the archives: Nat King Cole and Christmas Christians

Two from the archives:

How a Secular Christmas Song Became "Our Song" (or, Gifts from the Heart are Still the Best)

We hadn't been married very long and we didn't have much money. It was almost Christmas and although we weren't Christians we always gave each other gifts. The pickings would be slim this year, though, as the budget for presents was non-existent.

Atticus knew that I loved Nat King Cole's smoky voice crooning The Christmas Song. I had described it as "almost perfect." But this was in the days before digital music and mp3 players. I could hear my favorite song of the season only if it happened to come on the radio, as I didn't own the album. Atticus wanted to buy it for me, but our budget was so tight that even a new cassette tape (remember cassette tapes?) wasn't a possibility that year.

It was Christmas Eve, and I had to work. Feeling a little disheartened that we didn't have much to give one another, I was nevertheless looking forward to the meal that Atticus would no doubt have ready when I got home.

When I reached our apartment, I put my key in the lock and thought, "It's awfully quiet in there." I opened the door and found a candlelit room, heard a click, and then Nat's smooth voice. Atticus took my hand and we danced.

My dear, sweet husband had scrounged around our apartment, found a blank tape, and then waited. He had vigilantly stationed himself by the radio all day long as he cooked, waiting to hear and capture that song. He waited and waited some more, and finally hit the "record" button when the coveted song made its appearance.

He captured it; he captured me again. And ever since, when Nat starts to sing, we dance.


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. 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 show up only at Christmas and perhaps at Easter ... They may not contribute much 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 were just there.

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 again in January. Maybe once more in the spring. Maybe on a weekly basis by June. Into the confessional by next September? Then, finally, 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 and texting throughout the Mass? 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 any of them. I pray that I will not be the reason they go home griping about churchy hypocrites who say they're Christians but don't act like Christ at all.

I pray that some souls, somewhere, this Christmas season, will be touched by the Christ Child.

And I pray that I will not get in the way of His hand reaching out to touch theirs.


Jaime said...

thanks for this post!

Margaret Mary Myers said...

Amen, amen, amen. Let's just thank God they are there and pray for their full return.

I have watched people who turned further away because they were not treated well. I have listened with chagrin to people complain about people coming only on special occasions.

As Mother Mary Potter said in her book, To Jesus through Mary, we wonder at people, when we could do them so much more good by praying for them. Thank you, Karen, for all your beautiful posts.

Elizabeth M said...

For a short time early in our marriage, we were those "holiday" mass-goers too. So I try always to remember and pray for those crowds at Mass. I don't always succeed with as much charity as I should, but I try. I overheard a strange conversation between a grandmother and a young teen boy in the pew behind us before Mass. He asked her what religion God was -- she said she guessed He was Jewish, since Jesus was Jewish!
There was a lot of laughter when Father noted at the beginning of Mass that it looked just like last Sunday's Mass (meaning the crowd).
But I do pray that more of these families will come back. Come to get to know the parish and let the human welcome lead them back to the Mass and the Father.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, all, for your kind words, and a blessed Christmas season to you!

Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Such a great reminder! I linked to this on my weekly roundup. We finally had Mass this morning after being snowed in, and it was a small but thankful crowd!