Christmas Letter 2014: An Alchemist's Christmas
This Christmas promises to be a Golden Christmas. On Christmas morning, my children will sit three across at the top of the stairs, waiting for Gabriel and me to rise, so that they can eagerly topple over one another downstairs to discover whether or not Santa did indeed arrive.
But I lie, because Brian, Therese, and Ronan are no longer 8, 6, and 3, but 14, 12, and 9, and given the chance, they will opportune to sleep lazily into the late mornings, no longer restless with anticipation on Christmas morning.
On Christmas morning, Ronan will get a bright red fire truck, Therese will get a shiny, two-story dollhouse, and Brian will get an enormous Star Wars Lego set.
But I lie, because my children no longer play with trucks, dolls, or building blocks. In fact, my bare feet haven’t stepped on a stray midnight Lego block in years.
This Christmas Eve, we will read “The Night Before Christmas” again, and fill our imaginations with images of ---
But I lie, because we will probably read school books like Great Expectations or The Giver, and instead of utopian, sugarplumian visions, we’ll discuss mankind’s dubious past, or a cautionary tale of how the world might turn out if we don’t guard against the steely apathy within us.
This Christmas Eve at Mass, I will ask my children, who no longer fit three across at a kneeler, to solemnly genuflect before the crèche and bow their heads and pray for those less fortunate than themselves.
And yes, they will bow their heads, but they will lie in their assent. Instead, they’ll probably pray for themselves (as I certainly did; it seems so many years ago), that they can begin to understand the ancient mythology of world and the place where they lie within those folds.
We will gaze upon the swaddled babe in the manger where He lies. For a child is born, surely; born unblemished, unscathed. Born in giggly laughter, in rosy-cheeked, wide-eyed surprise. But born to become Man, ultimately.
Here lies a babe who would transform himself into one destined
to lead us into greatness,
to model supreme sacrifice,
to bestow miracles.
This Christmas Eve at Mass, my gaze will turn from the manger to my children’s bowed, olive-colored heads, as I witness the beginning of their transformation, a transformation laden with leaden doubt (as I certainly doubted; it seems so many years ago). With all they’ve learned through history and literature and science: How can one reconcile one’s infinitesimal smallness within the massive geological timeline? How can one possibly think one can make a difference in the world?
Because that is a lie, isn’t it?
And yet: Brian aspires to be an engineer, because he wants to build.
Therese aspires to be a nurse, because she wants to nurture.
Ronan aspires to be a scientist, because he wants to find the answers to so many questions.
So it begins: They are transforming from children to adults. Rising from their genuflection, they will stand, smile at me, and begin the lifelong journey to become the alchemists who take the iron core of the world and help turn it into something divinely brilliant, and who just might:
lead others to goodness,
and maybe bestow an occasional miracle.
Perhaps, with the blessing of The Alchemist, this will be the Christmas where they begin to examine the notion that they are insignificant and prove that it is a lie.
On this Christmas – this Golden Christmas – we wish you no sugarplums or gingerbread houses, no assembly required. We wish you instead an Alchemist’s Christmas laced with a shining, gilded faith in transformation and a request for your blessing as we begin ours.
May your season be filled with goodness and sacrifice and miracles, and may you be the one to bestow them.
Merry Christmas from the McKeagneys.