Every family has its holiday traditions; and most families have at least one family member who is fixated, even fanatical, about maintaining one certain family tradition. Lots of families play touch football on Thanksgiving; some families have Uncle Joe who insists that every family member join in four regulation-length quarters of touch football, regardless of weather. Lots of families have traditional Christmas desserts; some families have Aunt Millie, who insists on baking all twelve traditional desserts herself.
Well, around here I am sort of Uncle Joe when it comes to decorating the church. We must have all four regulation-length quarters of Advent before we decorate the church for Christmas on December 24th. Normally that is fixation enough to make my priest friends shake their heads. But this year, when Christmas Eve was also the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and we didn’t move a poinsettia or hang an evergreen garland until the four Advent candles were snuffed after the 11:00 Mass? That made them stare slack-jawed in wonder.
A sight to behold truly it was. Anthony Dao, Kelly Weisgerber, Elaine Vining, Peter & Melissa Franklin, and Margaret McDermott, were poised with all their gear ready by noon, and with their kids and some eighth grade RE students, plus some concerned parties who asked (Browns!), and help we dragooned from families leaving after the 11:00 Mass (Kirks! Bierwirths!). Many hands make light work, they say, but I still saw a lot of heavy lifting despite the many folks doing it. It certainly was quick work; all was done and festive by two o’clock! And wasn’t it great to arrive for Christmas to a church that looked so different than it had during Advent, just a few hours earlier? So give them a cheer for their hard work, our beautifully decorated church, and putting up cheerfully with Uncle Joe.
I think some cheering is on order, too, for our choirs (including the kids!) and musicians, under the gifted leadership of Chris Mueller. There was different music at each of the Masses, and it was all excellent, which was quite the workout for the singers. We also had all the standards we need to sing – and I saw you singing, too, you there in the fourth pew, who are usually so reticent.
Similarly dedicated and beautiful work was provided by our lectors and altar servers, which makes such an enormous difference to the richness and intelligibility of our liturgies. Along with our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, many of these folks arranged their schedule to be of service to us, rather than to fit their own (or their families’) preferences, and some even assisted at more than one Christmas Mass. Let’s hear it too for our ushers going about their work, welcoming folks, helping them find seats at the crowded Masses, and especially gathering the vital Christmas offertory. Few of you see our dedicated group of counters who give their time during when so many others get to relax, to make sure all gifts are accounted for and correctly deposited.
The Holy Name guys were the only ones able to do their work in advance, since they put up our outdoor stable, which takes much heaving and ho-ing. The population of the stable, including the guest of honor in the manger, arrives only at Christmas during the first Mass, or when the star brings them at Epiphany.
We never applaud work done for the Lord, but it wouldn’t be inappropriate if you were to speak a word of thanks to one of these folks whose work you notice and value. We are blessed to have such talented folks who make our church and our worship beautiful and reverent, and they might enjoy hearing it from your lips that you appreciate them. Some are easy to spot; some prefer to remain anonymous and behind the scenes, but if you identify them yourself, it’s fair for you to offer your gratitude to them, even if they blush.
And speaking of decorating trees, the Parishioner Tree in the rectory is looking great. You should stop by and see it soon, and if your family card or photo is not yet hanging on it, bring it with you or send it in. We want to see you!
To all the folks who pulled off another magnificent Christmas despite the logistic challenges of the date, I know who you are, and I marvel at your skill, generosity, and faith. Thank you so much for all you have done, and doubtless will continue to do in one way or another, keeping this parish family’s excellent Christmas traditions. Thanks especially, and God bless you, for humoring your crazy Uncle Joe.