Maryâ€™s Magnificat reminded us that God â€œhas filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.â€ (Luke 1:6-55.)
However, long before I could understand those words, it was my Aunt Jean who filled the hungry. In other words, filled me. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, with Maryâ€™s song launched at hearts with the sharp spear of hope, my memories wander to my Aunt Jeanâ€™s Christmas confections.
Which is to say, the fudge of Christmas past.
With its dark creaminess and luscious balance of walnuts per square candied inch, my auntâ€™s fudge served as a temptation for desperate excess. That fudge seemed in such short supply compared to my motherâ€™s nearly perfectâ€”and white as driven snowâ€”divinity. Yes, in the bygone seasons of Christmas, in those fleeting days of childhood, I compared two of the best holiday candies, fearing that one would be only momentarily available.
My mother did make the best divinity of any human who has ever lived in the past, or who will ever live in the future. This is the truth. Ask my cousin Frank, who received her divinity in all the ports of call he served while in the Navy. Ask my high school pal Charlie, who sat at his kitchen table, â€œblindâ€ sampling his motherâ€™s divinity and my motherâ€™s divinity and finally bowed his head and mumbled, â€œYour motherâ€™s is the best, Larry.â€
Yeah, it was.
And yet, as my motherâ€™s child, I had easy access to that angelic candy throughout December. This was not the case with my auntâ€™s fudge.
Thus it was, on one Christmas, as our families gathered to share a holiday meal, that Iâ€”a chubby lad with a hankering for all things sweetâ€”spied a table in the corner of the dining area where the future desserts awaited. Among the fruitcakes and cookies, near the gingerbread family, not far from the Russian tea cookies, and likely next to my motherâ€™s perfect divinity, was a plate overflowing with my auntâ€™s fudge.
The adults talked in hushed tones in other rooms.
Cousins were playing elsewhere.
Christmas songs were scratchily filling the house from a turntable.
The phones were ringing as distant relatives called to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
I was alone in a room with a thousand pieces of fudge. Fudge I hardly got to eat at home. Fudge that was not prepared at any other time of the year.
I snuck a glance. No one around. Why not some pre-dinner dessert right now?
I took a piece.
Ate it. Gone.
Then a second one. Tasty!
I left the room, perhaps briefly joining others (there was always a card game or puzzle underway), but thenâ€”clever meâ€”slipping back to the land of joy and fudge. Another furtive glance. Another sweet morsel.
How much fudge did I eat? Way. Too. Much.
I snuck as much as I could. It was precious! It would be gone soon!
Oh, how my tummy hurt. And yes, Mom was right even without saying it, doing things like that sure spoiled dinner. And a few other things . . .
Now I read and understandâ€”or at least try, try, try to understandâ€”Maryâ€™s call to embrace the truth of the truth of Adventâ€™s longing and Christmasâ€™ radical message. So often the agenda of the powerful, whether Romeâ€™s ancient belligerence or our frenzied capitalism-is-king obsession, we are told there is scarcity. Not enough. There are winners and losers. Bullies triumph. Wealth is the goal; a few have it, most donâ€™t and wonâ€™t. But Mary, echoing Hannahâ€™s prayer in I Samuel 2:1-10, startles us.
Too often, we live our lives fearing the â€œfudgeâ€ will run out. Steal it. Sneak it. Hoard it. Build a wall around it and claim it as only yours.
But Godâ€™s audacity in the Christmas story is always the endless, openhearted, vibrant way of Godâ€™s mercy. Godâ€™s hope. Godâ€™s dreams. Godâ€™s generosity. There is enough for all. Love knows no boundaries, no limits.
The child born in a manger is counter-cultural, a holy reminder about the abundance of what matters most.