‘Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the house
not a creature was stirring, because they all were at church!
Okay, maybe not everybody is at church this Fourth Sunday in Advent, because it is the day before Christmas, and some folks find two days in a row to be just a little more sanctification than they really want, or can handle. But I am not cynical. Nope; I could not be less cynical just now, and not because of Christmas and its associated superabundance of good will, either. No, that’s not it.
There is no room in me for cynicism these days because I have spent the last two months reading responses to my invitation to participate in our capital campaign for the improvement of our church. Let me tell you, it’s enough to make the heart of any Grinch grow six sizes!
There are people who responded with overwhelming generosity, manifest in the startlingly large gifts they gave. My goodness gracious; I had no idea people were willing to put that much of themselves into our church! It took me a long time to comprehend it, and I do not believe I have fully processed it yet.
Then, too, there are the notes, the stories, the explanations, and the great care that has accompanied so many of the pledge cards. And the clear devotion and diligence with which people have truly scraped up every loose cent they possibly can find, every resource that they dare turn toward this purpose, and freely, joyfully offered it to the parish.
Retired people on fixed income, elderly people with no income, young people with burgeoning families, people with tuition bills as big as the GDP of small nations. Regardless of the size of the gift or the pledge that they accompanied, these notes have carried with them enormous care for our church and parish, and strong desire to be faithful to the Lord in support of the Church.
But wait, there’s more! There are also the people who are grieved – truly, deeply grieved – that their situations just now are such that, because of illness or difficulty in their homes or in their larger families, they are unable to offer what they want to offer, to give what they want to give. The burdens they carry, and the sadness that they might disappoint their parish, are moving.
I have read all these responses, notes, and explanations, and I wanted to share them with you, with the whole parish, so everybody could see the love of the Lord and the love of the parish that courses through them. But I cannot. Clearly, if I did, these people would smite me, and not without good reason. This is not only private, but deeply personal information. They let their Pastor know the inner workings of their hearts and their households, but it must go no further than that.
So, no further shall it go. But if you see a twinkle in my eye this weekend, do not chalk it up to Christmas cheer. Know that it is because of the deep devotion to this church and the Lord Jesus Whom we serve here that has rolled like waves across my desk in recent weeks.
Note well that this devotion is also manifest in countless other ways, too: in the steady preparatory activity that marks Advent season in our parish; in the Sharing Tree; in the outpouring in the face of sudden bereavement; and especially in the joyful willingness of folks to decorate the church for Christmas between one and three o’clock in the afternoon on December 24th.
Too readily, I fear, do I allow this authentic dedication to become background noise to the more dramatic (and demanding!) ebbs and flows of enthusiasm and disposition and convenience of so many people who would identify themselves somehow with this parish. But as we move through the holy days this year, knowledge of and gratitude for this authentic dedication is roaring loud and clear in my head and in my heart.
You know who you are, and so do I. Thank you. There are more like you than you know or would ever guess. And if on Christmas Day we all turn and greet with the love and joy of Christ Himself somebody whom we have not seen in church in weeks or months or ever, even more will be here by the day before next Christmas.Monsignor Smith