JOY on the First Day of Christmas

“Let every heart prepare him room. . .And heaven and nature sing. . .While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy. . .”

It is Christmas day! Time to celebrate JOY, no matter what the news tells us, no matter what burdens we are carrying, no matter how many injustices remain in our world. The Incarnation of Jesus, the second “big bang” that happened on Earth, infused a light that can never be extinguished. But we have to open our eyes to see it, open our hearts to experience it.

Perhaps because I was born on Christmas Day, my soul is inured with a deep primordial joy when the season rolls around. Lovely childhood memories of Christmases in Minnesota, when my parents were in charge, rise from my daily meditations. We were not rich by any stretch, but we always had a tree, gifts (extras for me, the birthday girl), a special meal and a birthday cake. My heart still expands when I recall soft snow falling at night, the sound of familiar carols during midnight mass in our ancient stone church, my mother wishing me a happy birthday when mass was over.

The Christmases I have lived in California, when I was in charge of the celebrations, are also filled with joy unspeakable. Determined to make every year better, I conjure up the mystical and magical as I prepare during Advent for the big celebration. I bake traditional cookies, prepare sacramental meals, and plan spiritual rituals for friends and family who grace my dinner tables. Everyone must get involved and partake of the food that nourishes both body and soul.

On this first day of Christmas 2021, the joy of our candle-lighting ritual before dinner always elates me. Little white candles in gold candle holders are clipped to every plate. As we light each others’ candles, each person pronounces a blessing. This year, we had twenty people at the table (I have 9 grandchildren)! They blessed family, healthcare workers, friends far away, in hospitals, in nursing homes, or those homeless on the streets who do not have anyone. Most heartening were the tiny chirps of affirmation from our one-year-old in a high chair. She provided a light-hearted accompaniment to the solemn blessings of those who lost a loved one to Covid this year. More nourishing than the meal itself, there are no words to describe moments like these. Tears of joy spilled into my glass of wine as we toasted to another glorious Christmas day.

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