Christmas in Idaho by Ray Downing is available for purchase.
This Christmas, I received a new storybook, and the storybook was called Christmas in Idaho. Sometimes people send me books to review, and I get to interview the author. I said to him, “It’s a beautiful book. Why did you write it?” He said, “Well, during Christmas time, we’re celebrating all these different things of decorating; I just wanted to bring the idea of what Christmas is really about.” The story is about this snowman, and it begins with a very nostalgic scene, probably something that all of us have been doing, decorating the house for the holidays, having family over, cooking together, celebrating, lighting the fire in the fireplace, all these beautiful things are taking place. So, it’s Christmas Eve, and these little children are celebrating Christmas. They go out and build a snowman, and after they build the snowman, they go back inside to play, and they have dinner together. While they’re celebrating dinner together, the snowman, who’s outside, comes to life. He looks inside, he sees the family coming together, and he has this feeling in his heart, ‘I wish I could be in there; I wish I could be with them.’
After the children and the parents go to bed, everybody goes to sleep, and the house is all still; the snowman decides he’s going to go into the house. He goes into the house and sits by the fireplace. He sees a book on the coffee table; he opens it up, and it’s a storybook about Frosty the Snowman. He’s reading the book. He gets to the end of the book, and he realizes that in the end, Frosty melts and dies, and that’s the end of the story. He’s really sad because he thinks, “Oh my gosh, I’m a snowman. At some point, I’m going to melt and die.”
It was very sad, and he left the house. There’s just a beautiful scene where he’s going through these woods, he’s walking through these beautiful pine trees in the snow, and it’s dark, and he begins to get lost. Then he starts to get scared, and he thinks again, “I’m going to die. I’m going to melt away when the spring comes.” All of a sudden, he hears bells ringing in the distance, church bells, and as he hears these bells ringing, he feels this feeling inside of him that feels so good and so joyful. He starts to follow the sound of these bells, and as he’s walking through the clearing of the woods, he sees a Chapel over the treetops, and it’s the bells of the church. He looks at it, he hears the bells ringing, sees the light of the church, and decides that he’s going to walk into the church. The snowman begins to walk into the church, and he sees just how beautiful it is. As he’s walking into the church, he sees a Manger, and he decides, “I’m going to walk up to see just what this is, Manger.”
When he gets to the Manger, he’s so blown away! He can’t believe what is there, Mary and Joseph in this tiny little figure carved in the tree! He’s so filled with awe that he kneels down and he looks at the Manger! He’s blown away by the beauty of Jesus! He thinks about this child, and he thinks about what will happen to this child! As he looks up from the Manger, he realizes this child, this little child who was so innocent and so pure, would someday be crucified, would suffer, and would die just like him and would melt away. As he was pondering the beauty of the nativity scene and the cross, all of a sudden, there was a very bright light shining from the side of the church. The snowman walked over to the side of the church. As he was walking over there, only he could see this; there was a figure, Jesus. He opened his arms, and he wrapped himself around Jesus. Jesus hugged him, and he melted away into Jesus.
Before you knew it, the snowman was gone. Wasn’t that really impressive? Come on! (Laughter and applause after a life-size snowman had walked up to the front of the church and acted out what Fr. Michael was saying.) He melted away into Jesus, and the two of them became one.
All of you are here tonight for different reasons. I don’t know what brought each and every one of you here, but you heard something. You either heard the church bells or the angels invited you, or maybe it was your parents that said, “Please go to mass with me this Christmas.” But whatever it was, you were brought here to see this Manger. Look at this child who was born for us. For so much of our lives, we’re lost. We’re walking around in the woods. I hope at least at one point in your life you’ve questioned your own mortality and thought, what’s going to happen to me? Right here at this altar today, Christmas, Christ will be born.
We heard in the first reading that people who have walked in darkness had seen a great light. We hear in the gospel that Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus and laid him in a manger. A manger was a trough where animals were fed, so Jesus right now is born in a manger. He’s born this evening on the altar for you and me so that we may eat of his very body and blood, his very soul and divinity, that we may know in the depths of our hearts that we are never alone. If we know this, if we believe this, if we walk our lives with him, we will suffer, but he is with us in the suffering. You will die, but he is with you in the dying. We will rise. There are only two things in this life that we cannot do. You cannot conquer sin. There’s probably some sin in your life you can’t get a hang of. Only He can conquer sin. The second, you cannot rise yourself from the dead. Only He can do that.
We come here together, and we celebrate because Jesus, tonight, will be born on this altar. This is the Nativity. This is that moment when he is born on the altar, and we receive him. Very much like the snowman, as we receive him, we will become one with him. We will melt into him. He will become us, and we will become Him. If we have suffered with Him in this life, if we have died with Him in this life, we will rise with Him in this life. Let us remember this beautiful story of what Christmas is really about. The child Jesus was born in a manger so that you may no longer have to fear death, you may no longer have to fear sin, and we may all know that if we eat and drink of him, we may one day rise to eternal life. Tonight, we can rejoice and celebrate. This truly, indeed, is a very Merry Christmas.