Since it’s already getting late and my brain is fried from a daylongbake-a-thon and an evening shopping excursion with the girls, I thoughtI’d share this column of mine that ran in the National Catholic Register last year:
Last year, the week before Christmas found me in a culinary panic.In a last minute fit of anxiety, I wiped the family calendar clean ofall outside activities and in red marker I wrote the words “CHRISTMASBAKING” on December 23.
I was doggedly determined: We would have rum balls. We would havechocolate-drizzled pretzels. We would have delicate butter cookiesfilled with gumdrop surprises. We would have gingerbread men sportingbutton down shirts and darling bowties. We would have peanut butterfudge, chocolate fudge, and penuche.
Yes sir, we would have cookie platters to die for. Even if it killed me.
And it almost did. You see, in all my optimistic planning, I hadneglected to account for the fact that I was 6 months pregnant. Beingon my feet in the kitchen for great lengths of time was sure to beexhausting. I had also conveniently overlooked the fact that I had sixother children who happened to be bouncing off the walls with a sugarinfused, pre-holiday rush of energy.
But none of that mattered. There was baking to be done.
I started with the fudge. When I pulled out my mixing bowls and setthe ingredients on the counter, several small bodies immediatelydescended upon me. They climbed chairs and elbowed their way toward thegood stuff. They begged. They touched. They tasted.
But still I remained resolute. I muddled my way through a batch offudge, set it aside to cool, and then dove into the next recipe. Itwasn’t until I was midway through a double recipe of gingerbread doughthat the commotion in the kitchen and the throbbing pain in my legsmade me second guess my overzealous plans. After breaking up a candycane sword fight, settling a toddler tantrum, and retrieving mymeasuring cups from the toy box, I began to feel just a tiny bitdiscouraged.
Well, perhaps I was more than just a tiny bit discouraged. Thetruth be told, I was entertaining the idea of abandoning my Kitchen Aidmixer, seizing the still warm fudge, sitting in a corner of my raucouskitchen, and eating it straight from the pan.
In my experience, preparing for Christmas is idyllic only in itsplanning stages. When it comes down to the details, celebratingChristmas can be quite a different story. Suddenly, there’s a 2 yearold who relieves the nativity set of its angels. There’s a dog thatsamples popcorn from the tree. There are cookies that turn out raw inthe middle and burned on the bottom.
My saving grace, however, is that the particular joys of Christmasare found in the details as well, if only we will focus on them. Maryknew this. At that first Christmas all those years ago, the BlessedMother did not run around the stable in a panic because she had no eggnog to offer the shepherds. Scripture tells us very little aboutanything Mary might have said or done at the Savior’s birth, and thisalone is telling:
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
At Christmas, Mary didn’t do things — she kept things. She keptthings and reflected on them in her heart. Like Mary, we too can keepthe things of Christmas — all the little details—and reflect on them inour hearts.
In the midst of the inevitable commotion of my family’s Christmasthis year, I intend to bear in mind Our Lady’s example of doing lessand observing more:
I will keep my children’s beaming faces and eyes wide withanticipation as they gather around the crèche before the midnight Mass.I will keep 4 year old Stephen’s precious voice belting out “Away in aManger” with all his innocent heart. I will keep the candlelit beautyof the adorned altar. I will keep the communal sense of warmth and joythat surrounds us in the pews at Christmas Mass.
And when at last our Savior comes, I pray that I will keep Him too.I pray that I will welcome him with joy and keep Him always in my heart.