MERRY CHRISTMAS! May the birth of Jesus bring you peace and joy. This miracle of God’s love for us fills our hearts and lives with the awareness that God is with us in all of the daily events of our lives.
There is a commercial on television that states “Christmas is families”. Although I understand the sentiment, Christmas is much more than that. I remember the first Christmas I spent away from my family. I was already in my 30’s. I was living in Italy for 6 months, studying Italian. I was asked to help out at a parish near Milano, where I was living, in a village named Busto Garolfo, about 15 miles from Milano. On Christmas Eve, I went early to the parish and spent more than 10 hours hearing confessions. What an experience that was. The last stretch was the 3 or 4 hours just prior to midnight Mass. By the time Mass was to begin, I was exhausted.
The next day, after the Masses, I went to the home of a good friend and fellow PIME missionary. I spent the day with them, enjoying an Italian feast that lasted hours. I remember that the last course before desert was steaks of horse meat. I remember that I was already full and that I tried just a small piece of the meat. Of course, with the wine and bread and all of the other delicacies, from the antipasto to the pasta to the variety of meat dishes, I was content. Much more, however, I hadn’t been with my biological family but I was able to spend the day with family. It was an amazing day filled with many moments I won’t forget. The following day, I traveled to Rome to welcome my sister, who was arriving from the States to spend a week in Italy, including New Year’s Day. The next 13 years, I spent Christmas in Japan. December 25 is a typical work and school day in Japan, and so I had to get creative in those years.
From this experience, I learned that Christmas is more than just family. The love of God surrounds us wherever we are and with whomever we are. Even if we are alone, we are never really alone. Emmanuel, God is with us!