by Ken Rolheiser
Grandparents and the Spirit of Christmas Present

“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.)

In last week’s column when I spoke of my parents’ influence, I was realizing that they are someone’s grandparents and someone’s great grandparents. And so it goes on. If we are persons of vision, it is because we have stood on the shoulders of giants. 

This week I received an Email about my niece in hospital. These family notes increase in frequency with age. Our prayer list grows as our wisdom grows. We must endure our exile bravely until we are called to the heavenly banquet. 

Though life’s sickness and suffering surrounds us at times, the veil separating us from God is thin. Sometimes we can almost smell the food. Fresh baking? Sausage? Already there is bread and wine. It is a good thing God is in charge. God loves us and can do no wrong. That is comforting to know.

The carols of Christmas Present console and gladden us. When we sing those time-worn carols and hear the magic of “Silent Night” – Christ our Savior is Born! or “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – the hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight, a joy seems to be shared in the eyes of all present.

I believe the singing of carols takes us back to a time of innocence, a time when we believed, absolutely, in the incarnation and redemption role of the Son of God. We could then approach the Christ Child, as all babies are approachable, with awe and love.

As I speak to my children, I realize that I now am a grandfather with a Christmas message: “Today salvation has come to your house” (Luke 19:9). The Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard…the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

One of my readers related how she went to visit her friend who was dying of cancer of the lungs. As she entered the hospital room she thought, “Oh, is she [ever] suffering.” Just then, in a split second, she could no longer see her friend. She did see the face of Jesus. He was looking down and smiling. His hair was brown and parted in the middle. She felt a great calm and peace.

In an earlier column I shared the example of Father Tony Williams who lay dying of cancer. As he tried to pray, Tony gazed at the crucified Christ. Suddenly, he found himself on Calvary at the moment when Jesus was being crucified. Tony was shocked when he saw himself in the face of one of the soldiers crucifying Christ. 

“Have I been that terrible? Is it possible that my sins are crucifying you?” he asked Jesus. And Christ turned to him and said, “Tony, whatever they are, your sins are forgiven. My peace I give to you.” And Tony’s face on the soldier disappeared, and Tony felt an enormous peace. Tony died with a big smile on his face.

Christmas is about our salvation. “I wear the chain I forged in life," said the Ghost in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. But thanks to our Savior we can raise our eyes to the Star that brought the wise men to Bethlehem.

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