I remember: I remember many Christmas Days, beginning with the Midnight Mass when the Church was packed with people all decked out; the choir sang began about an hour before the Mass, with their beautiful voices filling the Church with the sacred music, setting the tone for the celebration about to begin. Christmas trees were scattered around the sanctuary, with their lights bright and adding sparkle. The Manger was ready to receive the infant and the shepherd were waiting, listening and paying attention. Finally the Creche received the infant and was blessed. The ritual continued with the readings from the scriptures, reminding us of the promise of the Incarnation. In the middle of the wars that affected everyone, we looked for peace and hope.
The next morning, we gathered around the Christmas tree, all lit and sparkling, with many beautifully wrapped presents underneath. Perhaps snow covered the ground, perhaps not; it really did not make a lot of difference. With a nervous breakfast, we opened the gifts and laughed and made a lot of noise. Then off to Mass once again, probably as an acolyte. Then in the afternoon, we all headed to our Grandparents home, meeting and greeting all of the Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. The house was filled with noise and the smell of turkey baking in the oven with all kinds of other gastronomic treasures. It was always the treat to see our Grandfather (the pater-families) open his present, stuffed within at least six boxes and finally the treasure came visible – a bottle of Old Grandad” and the joy and laughter filled the house, anticipating the opening of further gifts and the wonderful dinned, where the kids ate in the kitchen and the adults ate in the dining room; each filled with their own noise and commotion. The adults and kids had their own stories to share. At times gales of laughter would break forth and at other times a tear or two would be shed, as we remembered days gone by and those who had gone before us.
Looking back, I remember very few actual presents that came from the store; perhaps a Daisy BB Gun; perhaps a sled, but more than likely some underwear or other articles of clothing. All of those things are long gone; somewhere in a land fill or garbage dump. The one element that remains is the memories of love that filled the houses. The gathering of the family, the story telling with laughter and sharing of memories of Christmases past; the smells of the food and the busyness of everyone while listening for the Spirit of Christmas to come alive. As all of the “things” that were received, the one constant that fed all was the reality of love that brought everyone together and sustained them on their struggles that life provided on their human journey. They all fed one another and healing took place. Christmas came alive.
Christmas and other major celebrations of life and death always included the following: Anticipation, gathering, story telling, sharing a meal with more stories, and then the departure. Each of these aspects of our gathering was critically important. With the departure, as everyone prepared to return to their daily lives, there was always one more memory; one more story to tell. The departures were as telling as the gatherings. It is also interesting to note that this process mirrors the Mass that we Celebrate. In this we remember who we are; our roots. We also celebrate our life journey filled with great adventures and wonderful people that we have encountered along the way. We share a common meal and all of this together feeds our body, our mine, and most of all – our spirit – our soul.
Today, this same experience is still shared by so many people throughout the world. We need Christmas to sustain us; to feed us and to heal us. We need Christmas to remind us us who we are and that God is alive in the human spirit; God is alive in the world in all of Creation and it is good to remember. Life is filled with the promise of the resurrection moments that we encounter throughout our life-times. We need to be reminded that we are connected and that life that came into this world remains here and makes our world and all of life sacred and holy. We need to remember those who have gone before us, those here today and those yet to come. The gifts that we have received, we have become. We are each a surprise gift for others each and every day – we are part of the story of creation an called to celebrate; to rejoice, to sing and to raise a glass high in memory and love.
A very happy Christmas To One and All. Salud.