As I was praying, a mother, two children, and a doggie came up the path. The little boy sang out “Merry Christmas!” to the down-and-out man the next bench over. I suppose he smiled, but I had my head down in my breviary until they got nearer. “Merry Christmas!” the boy sang out as I looked up. “And to all of you as well, Merry Christmas,” I smiled.
Christmas is not yet dead, even in San Francisco. It gives occasion for a boy to greet a perfect stranger in the name of Christ. He is young; he has not yet been badly bruised by life, and it is perfectly natural for him to assume good will from a stranger on a park bench. But the mother too, she greeted me with a warm and loving smile and those words, “Merry Christmas.” Certainly she has been bruised by this dark world, but Christmas had again given her heart permission to trust like a child again. Only God, only someone who is greater than our limited humanity, can give us this joyful trust. When I say “merry Christmas” to the cabby, to the check-out girl, to the homeless man in the park, to the impeccably-dressed business man on the street, I am professing a faith that God will overcome all our human suspicions and dysfunctions. One cannot say “happy holidays” with the same guileless joy.
Merry Christmas to all of you!