Recently, a Byzantine (Greek) Catholic priest friend sent me a very large file of “Christmas resources.” It contains a wealth of information about celebrating the Christmas liturgies in the Eastern rites (Catholic and Orthodox), an incredible compilation of commentaries, reflections and preaching from the Fathers of the Church (especially the Eastern Fathers), reflections on Christmas customs, Scripture commentaries from various sources, homilies from various Christian denominations, Christmas proclamations, poetry, and inspiration.
Within what I term the “inspiration” pieces was a version of St. Paul’s famous passage on love (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8) rewritten in a way that applies to preparing for Christmas. Titled “1 Corinthians 13 – Christmas Style,” it was written by Sharon Jaynes some years ago and posted on her blog on December 16, 2009. [http://sharonjaynes.com/blog/?p=104]. It reads as follows:
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family — I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family — I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family — it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ — I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
This poem is a beautiful reminder to us all as Christmas draws ever-nearer, as the activities (and often accompanying stress) increase, and patience and perspective dwindle.
This also reminds (and challenges) us to take the beautiful words of St. Paul seriously, as something far more than poetry or inspiration. Love is authentic (i.e. truly love) when it is incarnated, “made flesh” in our words and actions. And when love is incarnated in us, we become the sign of the God who IS love and so loved the world that God gave us his Son, who became incarnate (made flesh) of the Virgin Mary and dwelt among us. (cf. 1 John 4: 8, John 3: 16, John 1: 14)