There have been many Christmas' in my life without Jesus. My parents didn't attend any services. My mother was a non-practicing Catholic and my dad had abandoned his Lutheran faith as well.
I was baptized a Catholic in December of 1981. A friend of mine gave me a Nativity set as a gift. It consisted of a straw manger and the Holy Family. Every year I would get another piece to add to the set and that Nativity has been under our tree every Christmas since. Until last year.
Last year we couldn't find it. I had no idea what I did with it. The remote to our lights was missing as well. We replaced that, but I couldn't bring myself to get another Nativity. I would stare at the spot under the tree where I carefully put it each year and I felt hollow. It just wasn't the same.
Over the summer we went through some boxes. I found a very pretty Christmas-looking box. When I opened it, carefully wrapped, was my Nativity! Laying next to it was the missing remote.
Today's second reading is from Romans 13:11-14 (New American Bible):
"Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkeness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh."
Those are powerful words in this day and age of gadgets and selfishness. I am guilty of "all of the above." But that little Nativity reminds me of my beginning in faith. It was under the tree two weeks after I was baptized and it was there until it went missing last year. This year it will be back and it is a gentle reminder that I am to give up the very things I covet this year.
Lord, I wait in anticipation of your arrival. Not only will I prepare the gifts, but I will prepare my soul as well. I promise!
O' Come, O' Come Emmanuel!