My wife and I have many customs at Christmastide. Some are silly: for example, on Christmas Day we always cook hotdog wraps (hotdogs in a shell of biscuit dough) for our main meal. This started when the kids were really young: after going to midnight mass, putting all the presents out, and then getting up at 6 AM when the kids did, we were too tired to cook the elaborate meal we had planned. Hot dogs were quick, the kids loved them, and pretty soon it became a tradition. Our oldest is 20 and to them this is what MUST be served on Christmas.
On a more serious note, my wife and I always listen to the following song by John McCutcheon:
This year, after the bloody massacre at Newtown, followed by the senseless killing of two firemen in upstate New York, it took on a special poignancy. It calls to mind another time when violence was deemed necessary, when families and homes were threatened by “sociopaths” and “evil-doers”, when failing to respond with violence meant surrendering to the “enemy.” And so the last war of European imperialism played out, leaving 16 million people dead and accomplishing little except to pave the way for the rise of Hitler and Stalin.This drives home, for me, the point (being debated here) that our nation has placed a misguided trust in violence. Is violence in self-defense sometimes necessary? The Church teaches that it is, but has placed many strictures around it to make clear that it is the exception, not the rule. As a culture, too many Americans look at these not as guidelines to turn them away from violence, but as legal obstacles to be overcome. They are straining out gnats and swallowing camels, invoking Augustine and Aquinas and fine points of theology while turning a blind eye to the love and grace made present in the Incarnation.
In this Christmas season, we need to remember how Christ emptied himself for the sake of us sinners, so that the peace which is beyond all understanding is in our heads, in our hearts and on our lips.