It's Christmas quiz time:
The topic of conversation at your family Christmas dinner is (pick all that apply):
- How yummy the lasagna is.
- The number of batches of Christmas cookies Aunt Betty baked this year.
- Whether the Mets will trade Noah Syndegaard or not.
- A heated discussion of how much the kids have grown.
- The mystery of the Incarnation of Christ.
If you guessed that the conversation at my Christmas dinner is numbers 1-4 you aced this quiz.
I come from a practicing Catholic family, yet any discussion of the "true meaning of Christmas" is conspicuously absent from our Christmas gatherings.
What's up with that?
Granted, Christmas dinner is hardly the time for a presentation of a theological treatise on the hypostatic union. Nor is anyone really interested in listening to Uncle Jimmy practice his preaching career, roaring fire and brimstone while Aunt Betty nods approvingly and continues to munch on a butter cookie.
How then, can we place Jesus and the mystery of Christmas at the center of our Christmas gatherings?
The simple 1962 Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear provides a great model. In the song, the announcement of the first Christmas is passed along like a game of telephone. Each character experiences the mystery of Christ's birth in a different way and gently shares what they have seen and heard with the next. Through this sharing the news eventually reaches the highest place in the land, and the King himself boldly proclaims that Christ will "bring us goodness and light."
So what does that have to do with Aunt Betty and her cookies?
In the song, the characters share their experience in the first person - "Do you see what I see?" "Do you know what I know?" Often, the first step to a personal encounter with Jesus is hearing someone else tell their story of what the Lord has done for them. Personal, humble, honest witness is the single most effective evangelization strategy there is.
The song's simple litany illustrates this beautifully - one person shares with another and leads them to an experience and then they go on and share their experience. None of the examples began with "You should..." or "Why don't you...." Instead, they begin with a gentle, inviting question - one that encourages the listener to want to know more.
This Christmas, let us all ask the Infant Jesus for his goodness and light to empower us to ask our friends and family this life-changing question: "Do you know what I know?"
Johnny Mathis' version of this carol is still my favorite:
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