Christmas/Liturgical Seasons/My Faith/Teen Faith

I Hated Christmas Until One Stranger Changed Everything

On December 25th, 2004, I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas. I jumped up and down, cheering and thanking my parents while waving the new gaming device in the air. I played with it all day until I fell asleep holding it that night.

But on December 26th, I woke up, rubbed my eyes, rolled out of bed, and left the gaming system behind. I completely forgot about it until I came back to my bed at the end of the day. “I just forgot. I’m sure I’ll love playing with it tomorrow,” I thought as I drifted into sleep.

But I didn’t. I tried so hard to enjoy playing with it the next day, but I kept getting bored of it quickly.

And then, the guilt hit.

Someone else would’ve liked this more.

Children all over the world would’ve loved to get this. Why am I holding it? What makes me so special?

These thoughts came to the forefront of my mind every Christmas morning following that year, and I hated it. I hated Christmas. I wanted to love it so badly. I loved everything that came before Christmas day. I loved not having school, lighting the candles on the Advent wreath, the music, the decorations, the egg nog and Christmas cookies. It was like this balloon of excitement that kept growing bigger and bigger each day, but then on December 25th, it would burst in my face.

Let’s fast forward, shall we?

I’m suddenly a freshman in high school, sitting next to her father at Christmas Eve Mass. But because it’s Christmas Eve and everyone and their grandmother shows up (literally), he wasn’t the only person I was sitting next to.

The man next to me was very old with scratchy, gray facial hair. He needed a shower. His stomach was large, but oddly misshapen. Was he sick? Our parish was incredibly small, but I had never seen him before. He came alone. And the most memorable characteristic: He would not stop talking to me.

He kept making small talk with me as if we weren’t in the middle of Mass. Didn’t he know you’re not supposed to do that? I whispered responses as softly as I could, until finally, the Mass ended. I braced myself; now that Mass was over he probably had a lot more to say. But he didn’t. He merely shook my hand and thanked me for talking to him. I suddenly realized how deeply he meant it. Unable to find any other words, I wished him a merry Christmas. He smiled softly and wished the same for me. And then he was gone.

To this day, I still don’t know anything about this man. But I’m forever thankful for his presence at that Christmas Eve Mass and the impact his words had on me.
You see, my little Grinch heart grew three sizes that evening, and each size was the direct result of a truth I needed desperately.

1. You are worthy of people’s love and effort.

Not because of anything we do, but because of what Christ has done for us. It was so difficult for me to accept Christmas gifts because I hadn’t yet accepted Christ’s gift of self. Despite how you might view yourself, when you realize how valued you truly are, you can’t help but sing praise.

2. That gratitude is the root of joy.

The man that night needed a friend. And the joy I witnessed when he found one helped me realize that instead of rejecting gifts, I should have been authentically thankful for them. Every gift, whether it’s a material item, a spiritual grace, a kind word, or a sunny day, is the Lord’s reminder of His ever present love for you. Authentic gratitude paves the way for authentic love.

Now when I receive a gift, I remember the moment. Intentionally soak in every detail so that whenever that item finds its way into view (whether it’s a shirt, a coffee mug, a journal, or whatever it may be), you can’t help but remember the person who gave it to you. And while you’re thinking of them, why not say a little prayer for them?

3. Preparation is key.

I wasn’t expecting that man. The world wasn’t expecting the King of Kings to come into the world as an infant. It’s pretty shocking when you think about it. But thankfully, we have Advent, which aims to give us plenty of time to prepare. God doesn’t want us to be caught off guard. He longs to be with us, and hopes that we long to be with Him too.

The authentic love that flows from gratitude paves right through our mess, and makes room in the inn of our hearts to welcome the infant Jesus warmly. That’s what Christmas is about: putting yourself in a place to receive Jesus in His most humble and gentle form. Don’t get lost in the fanfare of the holiday. Cookies, carols, and decorations are all good things — but they point to something better coming.

If you don’t pay attention to the final blessing before Mass ends, you need to start. Luckily for you, I do… so sharing it with you will be my Christmas gift to you this season: “May He make you firm in faith, joyful in hope, and active in charity.” I pray that’s what this Christmas season is for you.

If you don’t like my gift, you can always return it. 😉

About the Author

Patricia Moes

Basically, every day is a great day for Daily Mass and Chick-fil-a milkshakes. I have 7 older siblings who bring me a lot of joy and sometimes, a little sanctification. I love rhetorical strategies and St. Faustina always has my back. Some people call me Sassy Moes (I have no idea why), but when you tweet me/meet me (@pattymmoes), feel free to call me Patty! Go Noles and God Bless.

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