Growing up the best thing about Christmas was the all of the family getting together. Each year we would get out of school a few days early and have all that time to anticipate all that was going to happen over the next few days. (Editor’s note: I started this yesterday morning but got delayed for about a day; I will finish my thoughts now as best I can.)
Christmas is about family. God so loved the world that He brought into it His only Son to save it. God our Father; God our Brother. It was through the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived. Our whole salvation history is not about a God who demands from afar, but about a loving Father who gives and gives and gives. He gave us all His son, our brother, who was willing to sacrifice Himself for the sake of you, for the sake of me, for the sake of every living being. And all we have to do the receive the gift that Christ died to give us is simply accept Him into our hearts. I am so thankful to be a part of God’s family. But there is more…
I have been blessed my entire life to be a member of some great parish families; I’ve broken bread with them (every Sunday as a matter of fact); I’ve been educated in them; played sports and gone on picnics with them; buried loved ones with them; grew in faith with them. One of the apostolic mysteries I pray reflects on the communion of saints and three of the ones I focus primarily on are St. Blaise (now Holy Spirit) in Maryland Heights, MO – the parish of my youth; St. Thomas the Apostle in Decatur, IL where I spent the first 13 years of my young family’s life and St. Mary Magdalen in Brentwood, MO where we have raised our family, educated our children, married our children through and where Sarah and I have been music directors now for 16+ years. These were/are all beautiful families to have been a member of throughout my years.
The Schumacher family. My wife’s family is made up of some of the most wonderful people and I’ve been blessed to have been a part of this family for over 30 years now. Well, I thought I was family until yesterday. My relationship with my father-in-law was very special and we became very close over the years. I have always had a fascination with playing cards and I especially enjoy playing poker. My father-in-law had the same appreciation for cards and was a loyal member to two different groups of men who played poker on a regular basis. One was a group of men he met while at Monsanto and he joined their group (I believe) in the early ’60s (19, not 18). When I moved back to St. Louis in 2002, Dad asked me to sit in with them and play to which I mostly certainly did. As much as I enjoyed playing cards with these gentleman, it was the stories they shared at each game that was the best. They told stories of their days in the military, their days they shared at work and their accomplishments. It was honor to be at the table with those gentleman and to have those memories about them now. I digress. My mother-in-law spent the past couple of months cleaning up my father-in-laws poker table and presented that to me as a gift yesterday. I would say that was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received but my wife will point to herself, my 8 children and 4 grand kids. Needless to say, words can’t express the thanks I have to receive this poker table. Again, I digress. As my brother-in-law Paul and I were bringing it into the house yesterday, Paul (who I might add is a member of this group that plays poker now) made the comment on how hard it was to have this table leave the house…”it’s been in our family for so long.” I looked at him and said…”Wow, that hurts.” We both got a good laugh out of it. Long story longer, I love my in-laws very much and thank God for giving me the gift of the Schumacher family. I love you Ignatius, Bernice, Anne, Peter, Joel, Paul, Tom, Sarah and Kristen (and all of the spouses, nieces, nephews).
The Dorhauer family. I could spend hours typing about memories of my family; stories of long, long ago but suffice to say, I love my father, my mother, my sister, my 5 brothers more deeply than one could imagine. We may not have been the Brady Bunch growing up; we may have “cold-cocked” one another with a loaded feather pillow more than once (we had some epic pillow fights growing up). But the memory I will share with you now is from Christmas (Christmas Eve’s to be more particular). Every Christmas Eve growing up was spent with my mother’s family. The ones I cherish the most were when we would venture out of the County and into the Big City to my grandparents flat. Presents were shared, great food was consumed. It was for the most part a very simple tradition but it has offered me some of the most cherished memories as I’ve grown older. Why? It was the ride home. We would all pile back into the family station wagon and Dad would turn on KMOX to listen to Christmas music on our 20 minute journey back home. (It’s St. Louis. That magical town where you can be anywhere in 20 minutes or less). I would stare out of the window the whole way home convinced that this was going to be the year I see Santa shooting across the sky in his sled. It was one of the few times that I didn’t sleep while in a car. We would get home and Mom and Dad would shuffle us of to our beds where we would get some fitful sleep 10 minutes at a time. Longest night of the year was from 10 PM on Christmas Eve to about 6/7 AM on Christmas morning. Those 8 hours felt like an eternity in anticipation of what was to come. Again, you’d force yourself to “sleep” and every 10 minutes or so, bolt up thinking it’s gotta be time to get up!!! That anticipation, that expectation of opening some great Christmas gifts…top two you ask? One year I got a drum set (what the heck were they thinking) and another year, I got a space suit. Space helmet, space belt and space shoes. thinking back on this now, the best thing that I got for Christmas are the many memories I have of those special times together…with my family.
And lastly, I have to give thanks to the family I am blessed to call mine. Sarah, Grace (Chris, Aiden, Logan and Audrey), Jerome Jr. (Megan and Jerome III), Cecilia (Garrett), Richard (Megan), Mary, Ruth ( dating Paul), Tony (Megan in anticipation ) and Teresa. I can’t thank God enough for these beautiful people and the memories/traditions we have to look forward to. Last night, after everyone had gone home, we played a game of cards and then retreated to the family room to watch home videos. My brother Jeff shared (6) 8mm movies(transferred onto a DVD) my Mom and Dad had made when we were all little, so my kids got to see me in my youth – bad haircut and all. We then put on videos from their youth and it was going on midnight before the party broke up.
That my friends is my definition of Christmas. Time with God; time with my spiritual family; time with my “marital” family; time with my siblings and time with the family Sarah and I are responsible for…to take liberty with a phrase from Jan Brady…”family, family, family”…it’s all about family.
And lastly lastly. You who have adopted me and let me come into your home via this blog. I hope that my ramblings give you enough inspiration to improve your relationship with God and with your family. Merry Christmas to all of you. God’s blessings upon you.
Do something great for our Lord today…spend time with your family(ies).
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.
PS – I can’t not post the beautiful Gospel from our Mass at Day yesterday…the beginning of John’s Gospel. Spend sometime reading and thinking about these beautiful words.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.
PSS Today is the feast day of St. Stephen…the first martyr for Christ. He is the saint I chose as my confirmation saint.