Christmas in July

by Veronica Ferri

It is July; the trees are full and green. I can hear the hum of wasps as they hover at the eaves outside our gift shop. I am hot and sticky, because I am in the attic unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations and nativities for our opening in October.

Actually, at this point, I don’t even know if we will be able to open in October. Our shops have been closed due to COVID restrictions, and life is so unpredictable. Can I count on anything?

But here I am doing what I’ve been asked to do—unpack the Christmas items, wash them, and put them on trays to prepare for our shop displays. The boxes are piled high in one corner of the attic, and I am a bit daunted. But I open one and start searching through the packing paper and bubble wrap.

Soon I have pulled out a complete set of figures—sheep, shepherds and kings—delicate white porcelain figures, heads bent towards the Infant.

I wash these fragile statues in hot soapy water, rinse them, and set them on a tray. I look at them all and I look at Him, the tiny Infant, the Hope of the World.

For the next three hours all I do is unpack boxes of Christmas ware. I pull out dishes decorated with ivy and holly. I find a music box and wind it; the tinny sound of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” chimes out over and over. Yes, strange as it is, suddenly it is Christmas in July.

All of these items I am handling are donated, and I think about the people who owned them. These things brought them joy and warmed their homes and hearts. What children looked at these little Bethlehems? And what mother filled these dishes with beloved foods every year?

As I progress through the boxes, I set aside sets of nativities that are missing the Infant. There are quite a few. He is the smallest piece, so it is not surprising. But I want to make sure I haven’t overlooked him, so I go through each box carefully, feeling through all the paper.

In one set the Magi’s faces seem to question: “Where is He? We have come so far. We have seen His star, but where is He?”

So here I am in July searching for the Christ Child, and I am experiencing full onset liturgical confusion. Wait a minute. Isn’t this Ordinary Time? But then again, why shouldn’t I search for the Child in ordinary time?

Catherine Doherty taught us that the Incarnation is a mystery we are wrapped in at every moment of our lives and that Christ can be found in everything we do, even in the mundane task of unwrapping nativity sets.

Everything we touch can be filled with love and care and restore light and hope to a world plunged in uncertainty and darkness. Every little thing done with great love is a gift that God receives and transforms.

Christ became little so our littleness can become big in him. Will I find the Child wrapped in the crinkled paper of my anxieties, hiding in the box of my self-absorption? Will I find the Child buried beneath the bubble wrap of COVID fears or tangled in the tissue paper of pandemics and politics?

“Peace on Earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled…” In an old battered box filled with yellow straw, I find him. There he is on his manger bed, arms open to receive us, his bright face peering up at the world. Yes, there he is, the Prince of Peace. There he is, the Light of the World.

Christ is born today! Emmanuel—God with us! So what is there to fear if Christ is born today, in my heart, in a dusty attic in Combermere?