As the 4th candle of the Advent wreath is lit the excitement builds for Christmas. I remember after the Christmas Eve liturgy at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs another moving story of Christmas. It was about 9 pm and the doorbell rings. The temps are around the freezing mark and snow is falling as I peer out the window to a young couple with old worn coats and a swaddling blanket for a young infant. They are so cold they can hardly talk until I say can I help you. Yes, they said, “We need a place to stay tonight.” We had a large rectory and made room for them. The next day after Masses we cooked a nice meal for them and sat around the tree telling stories. Jill, John and young Michael were truly gifts of joy for us three Holy Cross priests. Jill and John were both seniors at nearby Colorado College. Jill was from New York state and John from Oregon. They were married a couple of years and were blessed with Michael. He was not planned and their families were against them having the child. Their families were not speaking with them so they decided to spend their first Christmas with our parish family. They stayed with us for a little over a week and continued to stay in touch with them as they settled in the area. John and Jill both now teach at Colorado College and have added Kathleen and David to their family. I felt their trust in God’s will even though they had lots of obstacles and their love for Michael was most real. At our Christmas Day breakfast in the rectory they seemed focused on every movement he made. It was beautiful to see and made for an amazing Christmas for me.
The Gospel that Christmas was not just a page in a beautiful book but was a lived story that unfolded before me and the parish. Both the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the story of John, Jill and Michael illustrate God’s calling to “Be Not Afraid.” Mary and Joseph faced lots of curious ,skeptical looks from their family and friends. Mary was young and Joseph was a bit older and they went away from Nazareth to have Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem. Strangers like shepherds and wise men from the East came to be with this family just as Jill, John and Michael came to our parish in Colorado. God is truly a God of surprise and the unexpected.