by Ken Rolheiser
Grandparents and the Spirit of Christmas Past

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.) 

I remember one of my Mother’s Christmas Eve suppers of schnitz soup and grebble when the soup ran low. My mother added hot water and the problem was solved. Dad’s witty observation, “Now we have Schnitz water”, had us all smiling.

I remember Dad sitting at the organ, pumping the peddles and playing “Silent Night.” We sang, “Christ our Savior is Born.” Christmas is about Grandparents – Dad’s had lived in Russia, Wilhelm and Elizabeth.

Before Christmas mankind had existed. Earliest man had primitive instincts, but God gifted humankind with intellect as well. Descartes at some point realized that even people who don’t think, exist. Grace continues to break through.

I remember holding my infant grandson (seventeen months) and saying night prayers with him. When I finished, I asked him if he wanted to add any prayer. “Alleluia, alleluia,” he said. Grace was alive.

What was the message of love our parents and grandparents were passing on to us? 
“I guess the most troublesome gift at Christmas is the Child Himself. What do we say? We smile nicely and pat the humbly wrapped present. ‘How nice of you, God, to have been so thoughtful,’ we mumble politely. But the Gift lies on the dresser unopened year after year. 

“Perhaps because we don’t expect to find much inside except a useless religious trinket. Perhaps because we don’t feel any need for God just now. Perhaps because we know that if we unwrap the Gift, we’ll be obligated to the Giver beyond what we can ever repay.
“And so it sits… until in loneliness, in pain, in utter desperation we tug at the ribbons and tear off the wrappings, hoping against hope we’ll find inside what we’ve longed for. And so it is. Unconditional love!” (from “A Gift All Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes” by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson).

It was love that God gave us when the Word became flesh in our Mother Mary. Always there is family where there is love. The Holy Spirit guided the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as He dwelt among us. 

Jesus shared the story of the talents which we are given to use in love of and service to others. “Well done, my good servant,” the master says to those who used their talents. (Luke 19:11-28). Then Jesus went on to Jerusalem and his sacrifice of love. And so in our lives. 

There is a song about waiting in line. From the moment of our birth until the day of our death, we are waiting in line. My Father was the first in our family to be born to eternal life. My Mother followed mere months later. Their gift to us was giving their deaths to us. 

Their gift to us, and we understood it, was living their lives for the Lord and giving their deaths in faith and love, adding to the merits of Jesus for our salvation and theirs. Now half of my siblings have followed as their turn in the line came up.

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone…for there is a child born for us, a son given to us” (Isaiah 9:1-6). 

(582 words)