HOPE. PEACE. JOY. LOVE.
Monday, December 21
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. - Luke 2:20
My mother's older sister was a widow in her 90s and lived alone. Once a week after work, I visited her to run errands and take her out for dinner to make sure that she got a decent meal. One year, her Christmas preparation amounted to sending me out to get a wreath for her front door, partly to remind the neighbors that she was a Christian. But she didn't seem to have much joy left in her life.
That same year, I, my wife, and our two young teens took her to the only nearby restaurant that was open on Christmas Eve. It was beautifully decorated and served a special dinner, with the menu printed on a scroll at each place setting. It turned out to be a very special meal that grew into the most memorable Christmas, as we returned to Aunt "Nini's" house to spend even more time with her. While sharing stories about Christmas preparations, joy seemed to appear. She sent me into her attic to retrieve some of her most prized possessions - Nativity figurines that she gave to us that night. We didn't make it home in time for our church's candlelight service that Christmas, but watched Christmas Mass televised from St. Patrick's Cathedral.
What began as an attempt at a good deed by celebrating Christmas with my aunt became a particularly joyful, moving evening for everyone. Nearly 30 years later, we still reminisce about that evening every Christmas Eve. We can't replicate that night, but rather take joy in our children's and grandchildren's evolving Christmas preparations. It's often said that Christmas is for the children, but I believe Christmas joy is vital to all of God's children, regardless of age - just as it was experienced by the shepherds in the field that Holy night.
Dear Jesus, like a shepherd lead us through the inevitable seasonal distractions, preparations, and traditions so that we may truly experience the joy of your birth. Amen