This month, the editors asked me to write about my favorite Christmas ever. I thought quite a bit about that. I could have gone with the Christmas that I got the toy I wanted (1979), my first Christmas as a husband (1992), or my first Christmas as a father (1993). But I’m going with the Christmas of 1970. I was five days old.
I was a Christmas baby. Even to this day, when my mother sees a picture or a video of me as an infant, she often comments (as though she were reporting the news for the first time) that the nurses at the hospital put a little Santa cap on my head when I was going home.
Days later, my mother carried me into church and I was presented to God. God was at the center of my life from the get-go. And although I didn’t share a birthday with Baby Jesus, we were infants at the same time of the year.
Maybe that’s why when I think about Christmas, I think lots about babies and children and mothers.
Of course, this is an obvious connection, even to those from whom you might not expect it. When I was very young, I remember overhearing the words of my grandfather to one of his children near the tree one Christmas. My grandfather—cerebral, devout, reserved—emotionally said: “Christmas is for children.” In later years, maybe I understand better what he meant. Christmas is for those who wish to be childlike.
In fact, Heaven is for those who wish to be childlike. As Jesus taught us, “Unless you are as children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” We’ve heard those words many times, but one recent morning during Mass, I sensed what they might mean.
As I knelt in church, I saw a young mother lovingly carrying her child on her way to Holy Communion—on her way to God. To that point of the day, I had probably been worried about my past sins and concerned about how God would judge me. But suddenly, as I watched this mother, I had an epiphany that this is how I will approach God at my judgment.
My thought was that a moment after I close my eyes for the last time on Earth, I will awaken as a child in the arms of Mary. And Mary, the Mother of God, will carry me as a child to present me to her Divine Son—similar to how I was first presented to God as a baby.
My wife took this idea a step further, commenting that when she is judged by Jesus, she wishes to be judged by the Infant Jesus. Maybe that’s how it happens. And if it is, it will be a scene of two babies celebrating their infancy together, united by the same Mother.
That might strike you as a strange thought. That’s not how we approach God for judgment. Right? As men and women of advanced years, we will stand alone at our judgments. Or do we? Our whole lives, we’ve been asking Mary to be with us sinners “now, and at the hour of our death.” Many people take that to mean that Mary will be with us at our death, and then leave us at our judgment.
But from all that we know about Mary, what suggests her absence, especially when we need her most? Perhaps “the hour of our death” includes both our last moments on earth and our first moments in Heaven. Perhaps the hour of our death includes the first moment—the eternal moment—of eternal life. Perhaps that is how we will approach God—in the arms of His Mother. Our Mother.
As we have been taught, Jesus came to us as a child because He wanted us humans to love Him, to easily approach Him. In that sense, Christmas is an invitation to both the first Christmas and to the eternal Christmas of Heaven. Jesus is inviting us to love Him. And this Christmas is no different.
If you’ve been away from Him through sin, please come home. God wants you back. God is ready to welcome you back through the wonderful sacrament of Confession. This year, just like every year, some people will come home. Though they will kneel down and say “Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” they are also saying: “I have seen a star in the East, and I have come to worship Him; I have come to love Him.”
Like George Bailey, they are saying: “Dear God, I want to live again.”
They want to be a child again. With the pardon and peace of God, they will be as children again. They will go into Confession very old, and come out very young. They will be Christmas babies, too. This will be their best Christmas ever.
Thank you for reading my columns this year. Merry Christmas!