Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Christmas the dog ate the ornaments

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 26, 2019

Many people strive to create the perfect Christmas experience for the family. The tree must be a symmetrical shape and the ornaments placed upon the limbs in a pleasing pattern. Each present is wrapped with precision and tied with large satin bows.

There’s nothing wrong with longing for perfection, but, alas, we’re destined for disappointment in our fallen world. A place where mosquitoes decimate picnics, wind knocks down trees and toddlers pitch fits.

I’ve stopped pining for a flawless Christmas, because my fondest memories of Christmases past are the moments when things went wrong.

You see, these instances helped me understand that Jesus came into a world of chaos and conflict, not the serene setting of a holiday greeting card.

One year, my nephew climbed out of his crib, while the rest of the family was sound asleep. He then made a beeline for the living room, where he enjoyed his version of a toddler’s perfect Christmas by opening up every single present beneath the tree.

When the rest of us woke up, we discovered wrapping paper and ribbons strewn across the room, and a baby still busily unveiling all the surprises.

My sister and brother-in-law’s first dog was the unforgettable Snoopy, who also created a lasting memory. One year, the dog started hankering after the shiny Christmas ornaments, dangling enticingly before her eyes.

And unbeknownst to anyone, Snoopy devoured a few baubles that looked particularly tasty.

This indiscretion wasn’t discovered until Snoopy was taken on a walk, and emitted droppings that shone and sparkled. Fortunately, the dog wasn’t harmed, and the ornaments were moved to a place less accessible to her big, drooling mouth.

When I first moved to Atlanta and had my very own apartment, I was thrilled to get a big Christmas tree, which I happily decorated. My roommate was a large gray-and-white tomcat named Funky, who had lived with me since my junior year in college.

When we’d lived in Gainesville, Florida, Funky had earned a reputation in the neighborhood as a quintessential cat burglar. You see, Funky was adept at climbing out my second-story kitchen window, landing on a tree limb and then showing up at other people’s windows.

There, he would look in hungrily, until the neighbors let him in and fed him. This meant Funky had multiple food dishes that he visited regularly, a habit that contributed to his considerable girth.

Funky took a big liking to my Christmas tree, no doubt believing it had been purchased for his pleasure. I’d often see him staring at it, as if constructing some secret plan, but didn’t think much about it.

One night, as I was sound asleep, Funky put the plan into action by climbing the tree, right up to the very top. In short order, the tree fell over, shedding ornaments hither and yon, and creating a dramatic commotion.

Funky looked reasonably contrite when I came rushing out in my pajamas, and he was frightened by the felling of the tree, so after that night, he left it alone.

These are the memories I cherish, the times when things didn’t go smoothly, the times when the unexpected happened. For me, these memories are in keeping with the Christmas story, since the original plot didn’t proceed in a predictable fashion.

It started out with a virgin being told she would bear a child, which certainly wasn’t something in her future plans.

When she did bear that child, there wasn’t room in the comfy inn—so he was born in the most down-to-earth setting, surrounded by onlookers that brayed and mooed.

The angels didn’t share the news of this amazing birth with the high and mighty, as might be expected, but with a smattering of scruffy shepherds.

All these surprises reflect the message of Jesus Christ, that the meek and lowly will inherit the earth, and the poor will be blessed. In God’s plot twists, the blind see, the deaf can hear and the dead will live again.

Despite the surprises, the very heart of Christmas is always perfect and predictable. It is the  love Jesus Christ has for each of us, which never disappoints, never wavers and never ends.

Artwork is by Jef Murray ( You may email Lorraine at