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He is born! Jesus is born!
My mother started the beautiful tradition of it being mandatory for each of her children to proclaim these words to her before we could enter into the living room and see the presents and tree on Christmas morning. She knew what direction the day would take and that gift-giving and merry-making would rule the house most of the day. The exception, of course, would be morning Mass, but the submersion into the true focus of Christmas would unconsciously be placed in the background after we arrived back home as family arrived and the celebrating began.
What wisdom she had! My siblings and I have been grateful to continue the tradition of keeping that focus upon wakening Christmas morning, and I personally love hearing it. However, I also truly enjoy the time spent with family and friends, feasting and lauding the praises to our Heavenly Father for sending us His Son.
This year our celebrating continued throughout part of the weekend, enjoying time with loved ones visiting from out of town. God was truly present, even when unexpected health complications put a damper on things. In fact, I found myself focusing even more on Him and His great sacrifice for us. (Watching someone you love suffer tends to do that, right?)
Digression: Someday I look forward to sharing thoughts on how incredibly our God can come to us through suffering, but I won't approach that subject today! (Did I hear an audible sigh of relief??)
Back to my point, it was certainly an unplanned roller coaster weekend, but God had even greater things in store. In His wisdom He would provide us a sort of strange and unexpected opportunity to come to spend time with Him in a new way.
First, I have to point out that as all of our family and friends can attest, my little domestic church is far from perfect. (Come and visit with us for one day, and this point will be made blazingly clear!) But, despite our failings, (and perhaps because of them), we have always made a permanent and undying commitment to never miss Sunday Mass. Obviously, there have been many illnesses or hospital visits that have gotten in the way over the years, but even during times when we have been caught up a bit in the culture of the day with business, etc., God has always helped us honor that commitment.
This past Sunday, however, God had different and very unexpected plans. Before Sunday Mass, the patriarch in our family who suffers daily with health issues experienced some setbacks that prevented us from attending and joining with the choir to sing God's praises. Attempting to go later, we were surprised to find that we had a very difficult time locating a church that had an evening Sunday Mass. Almost all had been cancelled this past weekend due to the timing of Christmas. However, my oldest daughter located a church not too far away that apparently still had a 5:30 pm Mass listed, and we were thrilled.
As tired and frazzled as I was, I knew that Mass was exactly what we needed to calm ourselves and rest in His Spirit of peace.
Once arriving at the church, we noticed that the turnout was much smaller than expected, although considering the holidays and that it was a church we did not attend often, it didn't seem too out of the ordinary.
However, upon entering the vestibule, we met a small crowd of people who were seemingly very confused, wandering in and out of the main part of the church and quietly talking. Concerned, I approached someone and asked what was going on. She said that her son had been signed up to serve for Mass, but the parish priest had not arrived and Mass was due to start in the next couple of minutes.
Starting to worry, the kids and I went into the main church and sat near a lovely setup of the Nativity that happened to be near the Blessed Sacrament. It was a beautiful spot to reflect and pray. We did so silently and waited as people came in and waited for Mass to begin as well.
After 10 minutes, it became clear that there would be no Mass that evening. Personally, I joined in the concern that something may have happened to the priest, so I prayed about this fervently just in case.
What struck me about the whole scenario was that it would have been so easy to genuflect goodby and leave with the thought, "Well, we tried! Better luck next week." But so many of the people that came decided to remain in the church.
The ambience was perfect: the lights were low, casting shadows around us, a quiet hum emitted from the heating vents, the light smell of incense still hung in the air. I felt blessed to have what to me seemed to be the best seats in the house, as we could look upon the Nativity scene and feel like we were almost there.
And I know I am often proud of my children, but that night really surprised me. The kids actually asked me to stay. At my oldest daughter's suggestion, we made a spiritual communion as a family and then she even found vespers on my phone to pray.
The sense of church family at a place where we knew no one was so comforting and sweet. A couple of times my eyes wandered around the church and met a few that belonged to other parishioners…we smiled in understanding at each other.
All in all, we stayed for over 40 minutes, and I actually had to pull my older ones out who wanted to stay longer. But the younger ones had hit their limit, one in particular!
Truly, it was an evening to remember. I still really missed being able to participate in actual Mass, but God was so good in allowing us to spend a very unique evening with Him.
How good our God is!! And how great are His gifts, especially the gift of His Son. I truly hope that these upcoming days of the octave of Christmas fill you with joy and peace.
From our family to yours: Merry Christmas!!!!!
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Let the Fire Fall!
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