Column: Set an extra place at the table at your Christmas feast

Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.
Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.

by Deacon Tony Zimmerman

In recent years, we have all heard of the attempt by some to remove Christ from Christmas.

We’ve heard the stories of companies allowing only “Happy Holidays”- type of decorations in the workplace. A postmaster in Virginia demanded that carolers dressed in festive clothing who were going from shop to shop to celebrate the coming of Christmas leave his post office, as this celebration of Christmas was not allowed. For those of us old enough to remember, the post office on Grand Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., for many years had a moving Santa which belted out Christmas carols. While Santa should not be the central image for Christmas in our hearts and home, these attempts in our culture to sanitize Christmas into a generic day of rejoicing troubles and saddens us.

The latest news story is the dearth of Nativity scenes available for purchase at major retailers. Where will we find that image of salvation come to earth in the image of Mary, Joseph and the babe lying in a manager? To be sure, it will be present in our churches, in our homes, and perhaps on some private lawns.

The problem is that these are all artful representations of what the shepherds found upon their arrival in Bethlehem. What can we do to make the saving love of God, which took on human flesh when Christ was born in Bethlehem, really present to others?

We can do this by reaching out to those in need who find this time of year especially barren and dark because they cannot provide a gift for their children or food for the Christmas dinner. As we plan our Christmas dinners, we can set aside some of the money or food that we would have used for our celebration and donate it to a food pantry such as Harvesters. Don’t forget the good done by the Wyandotte Pregnancy Center in Kansas City, Kan., which not only provides counseling, but also food and clothing for its clients.

To have real solidarity with those who are in need, set an extra place at the Christmas dinner table. This space will be a reminder of the need to keep an open place at our table and in our families for Christ, who is present in our sisters and brothers who are in need of food, shelter and clothing. What a beautiful tradition this would be for our children and grandchildren to see and carry forward in their lives.

And don’t despair if you read this on Christmas Eve or morning. Still set an extra place at your table and donate to those in need, as hunger is not just at Christmas.

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