Walking Our Faith: This year I discovered the true meaning of Christmas
I wasn’t supposed to go to work on Christmas Eve, but because the fireplace repairman came Tuesday and I had to stay home to meet them, Christmas Eve was my alternative.
My first stop on the morning of Christmas Eve was the post office in Breckenridge. I waited in line with an armful of mail and three yellow slips for packages I had to pick up.
When I reached the front of the line, I saw my three favorite postal workers behind the counter: Phil, Russell and Leslie. Phil called me over, and I put down my pile of mail and handed him the three slips. I thanked him for the hard work he and the other postal workers were doing through the Christmas crush, and he informed me he would be working on Christmas morning.
He said his children were in other states and would be unable to gather as they traditionally did on Christmas, “So, why not work?“ he said. This brought back a memory of my own father who worked the night shift at the post office every Christmas Eve so that he could receive the overtime pay that was offered to holiday workers. I could see that same exhaustion in Phil’s face.
When Phil returned with my packages, I mentioned that I had homemade biscotti in the car and asked him if he would like some. He mentioned they had received quite a few plates of cookies, and I jokingly suggested that perhaps he didn’t want mine, which was met with a chorus of “no, no, no,” from Phil and Russell.
So I carried my packages to the car and returned to the post office counter with three bags of gingerbread and anise biscotti frosted with white chocolate, one each for Phil, Leslie and Russell.
In the Bible, it says it is better to give than to receive. On this morning, that adage proved truer than ever.
Because here’s the backstory: Before I arrived at the post office, I had been speaking with Mom, and to be honest, I was very teary-eyed because she is in Florida and I am here. And I anticipated a very sad Christmas.
But after my exchange in the post office, I was happy. Not only because I was able to share my Christmas cookies, but because it brought back a loving memory of my father at Christmastime, and it reminded me that all over our country, there are people who are spending this Christmas apart from family. Somehow knowing I am not alone makes me feel part of a larger family, such as my friend Natalie who lives in Frisco with her husband, Dave, and whose son, Jonathan, is in Germany recovering from COVID-19. Or my friends Pat and Vern, who haven’t seen their children in Illinois and Kentucky since last December.
I went to work, and it was a busy day because I had to hurry to get everything done so that I could leave the office in time to make it to the first Christmas Mass at 4 p.m. at St. Mary’s.
Yet there was still time to receive a small Christmas cake and a book from Joyce, a tin of cookies from Natalie and a tortilla warmer from Caroline, who I have not seen in a year. What joy.
Later that afternoon, I entered St. Mary’s which would soon hold families celebrating Christmas far from home. I prepared myself to do the readings from the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Acts. Father Stephen was presiding, Deacon Jim assisting, Maggie was at the piano, and my friend Larry stopped by my pew to gift me a book of essays on the Psalms.
It occurred to me that I had always wondered what it would be like to go to Mass on Christmas Eve in Breckenridge because normally I would be in Florida at this time. And here I was so happy to be doing my favorite thing, which is standing before our parishioners, reading from God‘s holy word.
I always pray before I walk up to the podium, just as I pray before I write this column, that God will give me his thoughts and his words to share his message.
And the message that I receive in my heart from God when I say this prayer and ask him what he wants people to know is always the same: That God loves each of us more than we will ever know. That God seeks us, pursues us, with open arms forgiving all and loving all.
And that’s what this Christmas season is really about, God‘s love for us. A love so deep that he came to us born as an infant child, as vulnerable as any newborn. So that he could experience all that we experience, the love and the sadness, the joy and the sorrow of being human. And so that we could know that God loved us so much he would do this for us.
On Christmas morning, I called Mom, and we stayed on the phone as she opened the Christmas presents I had sent, and she told me about attending the Christmas Eve concert at her church in Florida. And after I finish these words, I am going to Pat and Verne’s house for Christmas brunch. But not before I email this column to Nicole Miller, the editor of the Summit Daily News, who is working this Christmas morning.
This Christmas turned out not to be sad. Instead it was a Christmas filled with love and a reminder that, yes, it is better to give than to receive and that we can share God’s love and God‘s joy in all circumstances. I believe it is in the most difficult circumstances that God‘s love shines the brightest. God bless you.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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