Q It's odd, isn't it, having a Christmas supplement so close to Halloween? What kind of “Christmasy” things should my family be doing now? Is there something we can do with pumpkins?
A In answer to your first question: Yes. In answer to your next questions: Not pumpkins. Definitely not pumpkins.
It seems to me that if there's one person who can be “Christmasy” outside of December, it's Mary. After all, she started getting ready for Christmas way back on March 25, Feast of the Annunciation (and my son's birthday).
There is a Mary statue in my backyard. My wife bought it, and I carried it to a place of honor among the evergreens.
Ours is just a little statue, maybe two feet high, unpainted, molded cement. It didn't cost much, but to us it is precious.
No, the cement isn't precious. The thought of who it represents is precious.
Yes, some folks think it is strange, old-fashioned and childish to put such a thing in the yard. Is it an idol? Do you worship her? Do you pray to the statue and ask for lower mortgage rates?
No. We honor Mary, Christ's mother, the speaker of the most far-reaching “yes” of all time: the “yes” that launched 2,000 Christmases. When we're out in the yard cooking hamburgers, tossing a baseball or gardening, the stature reminds us of her sacrifice and grace. It might even remind us to pause in prayer—not to a statue, but to who it represents.
But lest this turn into a long dissertation of the place of Mary in the church and heaven, I simply want to contend that a Mary statue is a better thing to put in my backyard than some of the alternatives my neighbors have selected:
E Bird bath. OK, I appreciate a clean bird as much as the next guy. But bathing birds aren't an especially spiritual group, although some emit a nice song. They also get the water dirty.
E Plastic goose. Several neighbors have these, and take great pleasure in dressing them for the season—raincoat, swimsuit, winter sweater. I hope they dress their kids as well.
E Flags with state, college or seasonal motifs. A guy down the street puts up an Ohio State flag every weekend during football season. Does he worship his university? I really don't want to know.
E Shiny spheres: I admit I really don't know what these things are called. But the guy next door has a shiny ball that sits on a pedestal in his garden. We sort of had the same thing a couple years ago when my son got his basketball stuck in the maple tree—but it wasn't shiny.
As fun as some of these things sound, I'm not going to trade in my Mary statue for any of them. Yes, it reminds me of Christmas. But sometimes it doesn't remind me of anything but Mary. In fact, I might even sit in my backyard and to pray my daily rosary near it. (remember: The Pope wants daily rosaries these days).
While I don't need an image of Mary to pray a rosary, a statue of her can help the mood. At least it helps more than a plastic goose or metal frog.
Jim Fair writes from Chicago.