I just set up my Nativity creche, save for the figure of Baby Jesus, of course. The creche was my parents' and was given to them as a wedding gift in 1956 by my mother's brothers. It is a Hummel set, made back when the nuns in Germany crafted each by hand.
Tonight we will follow tradition. First, the 5:00 pm Vigil Mass at St. Joseph. It is known as the "kiddie" Mass, since it has become popular with families with children - the obligation to attend Mass is fulfilled so that Christmas Day can be unrushed. Tonight will be a little bittersweet - this will be the last one for Fr. Michael St. paul, our parochial vicar, as the normal course of rotation will see him at a new parish come July. I remember his first time - only ordained the previous June, he asked the fatal question during his homily, "So, is Santa Claus real?" He paused, just long enough for us parents to think, briefly, you SOB, you tell them no and we will drag you from that altar, only to have him smile and firmly state, "Of course he is." Fr. Mike has managed each year to give a homily that keeps the children's attention while remaining Christ-centered. He always ends every homily with "God bless you." God bless you, Michael St. Paul, and I hope your successor can do as great a job you have done with these Christmas Eves.
Then, dinner. Sometimes in the past we have had neighbors and friends over for a Christmas toast, but other years, as this one, we are heading over to the Olde Ship for fish-n-chips. The fish part comes from my childhood, when my grandmother would cook the traditional and meatless Polish Viglia feast. I am not one to whip together a 12-course meal as she did (!) so we retire to our local British pub and snap open the crackers that they provide.
Finally, back home to read the story of the first Christmas, courtesy of Luke. When I was a child, we took turns each year reading the story, and upon concluding, then and only then, the Christ Child was placed in the creche, and my father would solemnly intone, "The Martin Family Christmas has officially begun." Now I do the same with mine, and the Richer Family Christmas commences.
2,000 years ago, or so, a scared yet resolute young virgin labored to give birth to her firstborn. On this very night. But she had faith that the result of her effort would be the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh. And with that, Humanity would have new worth. 2,000 years later, it seems, we are also fearful, but from this miracle we take that hope and that faith and look forward. May the Christ Child bring all of us His Love to strengthen our hearts for the task of being close to Him.
God bless you.