The Birth of Our Lord

(most seem to agree that it occurred around the year 6 BC, as counterintuitive as it seems)

Dear Laura,

The mere thought of you this morning warms my heart.  (And that’s a good thing, considering the current state of my cell – it’s hardly a tropical delight in here these days, though it may be hot and humid outside for all I know – I can’t remember the last time I saw real daylight.)  I can picture you and your brothers and sisters and your boisterous and loving parents gathered around the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts and laughing and singing carols.  Probably your dad started the traditional Christmas fire in the fireplace; probably a fresh snow decorates the trees and bushes in the backyard; probably the smell of baking Christmas cookies is driving Rover wild… It makes me smile to know that some people still remember how to celebrate Christmas.

Yes, that’s what I said: by your simple familial joys are you celebrating Christmas correctly.  I know that it has become vogue among serious Catholics to belittle the usual associations that non-believers have with the holiday – family gathering and fun and good food…  But here in my solitary splendor (I’m being sarcastic, of course – there is no splendor in my solitariness) I can tell you that such belittling is understandable, but reprehensible.  It’s understandable because these healthy characteristics of a secularized Christmas, uprooted from their true soil (faith in the Incarnation of our Savior, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, i.e. God), too often tag along with many unhealthy characteristics.  Therefore, Christians ought to beware of enervating reductionism.

But it’s also reprehensible, because even if family unity and generosity and fellowship is just the fruit (and not the essence) of the Christmas mystery (by becoming a man, God revealed his desire to reunite the sundered family of mankind and adopt us into his own eternal family, the Trinity, so our families should be more family-like – as they often become at this time of year – because of it), it’s still a good thing, and ought to be praised and enjoyed as such.  But it shouldn’t stop there.  Your family should extend the Christmas spirit to other families as well, and to individuals who need a family.  I know you know that, and I am sure you are all doing something about it.

Well, I can’t say I don’t miss you.  I can’t say I wouldn’t like to be sitting by the fire with you playing scrabble.  I would.  I would indeed.  But Jesus, Mary and Joseph had a rather lonely Christmas the first time around, and I doubt the cave in Bethlehem was the coziest of corners.  So how can I complain?  In fact, if I may share a secret with you, I believe that these years of imprisonment have made me a much jollier soul altogether.  The proof is right in front of me: I think of the baby Jesus, and I smile, and nothing can steal the joy that wells up deep in the core of my heart – not the loneliness, not the solitude, not the seemingly hopeless situation I find myself in, not the uncertainty of the future, not the lack of friends and loved ones…  I certainly doubt that I would have been able to experience the Joy of Christ in the midst of such circumstances before.  Now, however, it is enough to have Him in my heart, to know that he loved me enough to make the long trip from Heaven to Mary’s womb to the Manger, just to be with me.

Do relish a few of your mother’s superb jam-drop cookies on my behalf.  And be assured of my prayers for a merry, merry Christmas.

Your loving uncle,


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