faithfamilyI love Christmas but one aspect that troubles me is the way our holiday gatherings seem to be more about food, drink, glitzy outfits and everyone spouting their political opinions, than they are celebrations of Jesus’ birth. I feel myself already dreading the office parties and having to spend time with certain relatives. Can you help me to see this another way?

Christmas celebrations include feasting, glitter, the people you like and those you don’t. Now, if Jesus, born into this human world is truly Emmanuel, “God with us,” then he must be with us at those holiday gatherings. Let’s see if we can find him.

First, the food and drink. What did Jesus teach us? Well, quite frankly he spent a great deal of time eating and drinking with people. He fed the 5,000, invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house, ate Martha’s cooking, gleaned in the fields while on the road with his disciples and went to weddings.

His last gathering took place the night before he died when he broke bread and drank wine with his closest companions as a means of giving us his very self for all time. After his resurrection, Jesus continues to eat and to feed others. Remember the travelers to Emmaus who finally recognize Jesus in their shared meal at the end of the road, and what a delightful breakfast he prepares for Peter and six other disciples that post-Easter morning on the beach? Jesus came to invite us to his Father’s Kingdom. We are told that heaven will be like a wedding banquet where all will gather at the Table of the Lord. Jesus taught us that gathering with people and sharing food has great significance: it’s about life; it’s about love!

So, do eat, drink and be merry! Not in such excess that we forget why we are gathered. Not in a manner that the food and drink become the focus, rather than the sharing of it. From what we hear in the Scriptures, Jesus ate plain and simple good food: fish, bread, oil, grains. But he also knew the good wine from the mediocre! So use real butter in your cookies and give them to your lonely neighbor who is having his first Christmas without his beloved wife.

Let’s not plan our parties to impress, outdo and “one up” our friends and neighbors, but rather let our hospitality express that we are truly graced by the presence of these guests in our home, no matter their political views or time worn stories. Gift them with your patience to truly hear them into being. Look for Christ in them; he’s there, if you look with eyes of love.

Christmas celebrations often require us to spend time with individuals we might not choose to see the rest of the year. Are we prone to gossip, to dredging up old family hurts and to comparing ourselves with our siblings? Is it possible that God may want to use you in hidden ways to bring reconciliation where division has been? In small, gentle ways, can you ease family tensions by forgetting hurts, and being inclusive with your guest list?

Questions or comments for Christ?

Send them to her at
Catholic Herald Parenting
PO Box 070913,
Milwaukee, 53207-0913 or by e-mail.

Can you resolve to listen more to find out about others’ lives and concerns rather than being intent on getting your own story out there? Jesus ate with sinners, tax collectors and outcasts. Can you eat with your relatives?

At more secular gatherings such as office parties, focus on being kind, positive and grateful. Forget your outfit, self-seeking networking and the desire to impress. There will be someone at that party, perhaps a total stranger to you, who has a story to tell that needs a compassionate listener. There will be people who are struggling and need affirmation. There will be others eager to share their joys. If you come with an open heart, Jesus will be there to provide the connections.

Jesus came to live this human/divine life with us, to be one of us, to connect heaven and earth for us. That’s why his life is so significant; he is the template for ours. Replace your dread of the season with anticipation. Be a Christ-seeker this holiday season. He is Emmanuel, God with us, everywhere!

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats, and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)