I have attended a couple of Christmas Eve midnight masses in my churchly experience.  One was in Beaumont, Texas, and the other one was in Bangor, Maine.  If you experience some pain trying to put those two places together in one life, don’t worry, it gives me pause as well.

I was with my second wife in Beaumont, and I suppose you could say she was with her second husband, and we were casting about for something to do on Christmas Eve and as she was a sort-of Catholic, we decided to attend the service at this church everyone was talking about.  

This was a prominently located and appropriately gothical Catholic church on one of the main drags in town.  I had quite deliberately drifted away from formal religion but was aware of the entertainment value of attending such a gathering on Christmas eve.  I was able, with some effort, to stir up a coat and tie and we went to church.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the sanctuary was that it was a noisy but friendly crowd.  It faintly smelled of a distillery.  I was surprised that I could tell since I had fortified myself with a touch of the sour mash prior to the occasion.  It made me feel as though I was among friends, even though I didn’t know a soul in the place.  

When the organ began it’s prelude a hush fell over the room and what followed was indeed entertaining, full of symbolism and priceless people watching.  Not being a communicant, I suppose it could be said that I was not fully engaged, but I was paying attention.  There was a lot to see.

The second time I did this was in Bangor.  I went with a woman I was seeing at the time, who placed great store in making a show at appropriate times, especially when that “show” was likely to be seen by someone who might recognize her.  It was the church she attended and occasionally mentioned.  (Here, I must note that things are not always as stated.  In the time I knew her I never knew her to “attend”.  Perhaps points were rewarded for “mentioning”).

This was a high Episcopalian gathering.  I had to smile as I entered the sanctuary and took in a whiff of that saintly air and noticed once again the presence of spirits not of the heavenly kind.  I couldn’t help myself from thinking of that time worn line that anywhere you find four Episcopalians you are bound to find a fifth.  It comes off better verbally than in print.

The music was good and was in itself worth the visit.  But that was it.  It was colder in Bangor than it was in Beaumont.  

What I will say is that in both cases the effort was genuinely made to connect the Christmas holiday with the birth of Jesus Christ.  That is not a small thing in this age, when all the Wal-Marts, K-Marts, Targets, LLBeans and every thing in between are trying to make a buck on the holiday energy while avoiding in extremis any suggestion of a religious connection.  And they have a sight more money than the religious side to invest in “wow” and “glitter”.  Heaven can just get in line and wait.  

What we know – and we do know this – is that Christmas, or if you prefer, The Holiday Season, is one of the best ready-made times to let “otherness” creep into our lives.  There is much about it all that I can hardly abide.  But, by pealing off all the layers of noise, tinsel, sleigh bells and myth you’ll find a great opportunity for love.   You’ll find the touch of your soul, friends and family, comfort and joy, and hopefully something really good to eat.

I’m Jerry Henderson, wishing for you the best.

1 Comment

  1. Well said..HF. Peace.

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