This coming Thursday, we will repeat the Christmas rituals that we have held dear for years, if not generations: The children will squeal with delight as they dive into treasures under the tree. Visiting grandparents will yearn to have gotten just a few more hours sleep. The dog will paw his way through wads of discarded wrapping paper then stand guard at the breakfast table.
Each of our mornings will be intensely familial and personal. Yet across our city, our state, our nation and our world, many households are engaging in the same ritual. No, not all in exactly the same way, but all in
celebration, whether as kingly kings, humble peasants — or something in between.
That’s the paradox of Christmas. While not all celebrate the spiritual on this day, the secular aspect of Christmas morning spreads across many countries and cultures. So what’s happening in Morton Grove also unfolds in Nairobi, Copenhagen and São Paulo.
Children and grandchildren across the world provide much of the Christmas magic, as we watch the special morning unfold through their eyes. Husbands and wives catch quiet moments to exchange gifts especially picked out for the other. Friends laugh at the gag presents — that carefully wrapped box that proves to be full of confetti — while others engage in rambunctious white-elephant gift exchanges.
The unique moments create the longest memories: The bike on which your daughter first pedaled solo. The brand-new football that Brother heaved through Mrs. Smith’s window. The wildly colored shirt sent by Aunt Sally that, well, didn’t work so well.
Then it’s on to the table and those foods that define each of our Christmas mornings: Our neighbor’s sweet rolls; Our aunt’s tamales; Our mom’s banana-nut bread or grandma’s pierogis.
Whether down the block, across the U.S. or an ocean or two away, it’s the same for other families. The street sweeper in France opens his packages. The teacher in Kenya shares gifts. A pen pal in Korea sings with her parents and siblings.
Yes, today’s ritual of exchanging gifts is part of the fun. But more important, we will remember that family member who is no longer here. We will recall that Bethlehem Christmas of long, long ago. We will take a deep breath and soak in the moment and those memories.
Then we will rise up from the tree with a new sense of hope and joy. Once more, the uniqueness of the season has touched us, in all its universal glory.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas to all of our Morton Grove friends and neighbors