In the Catholic Church, the Sunday that falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day honors the Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and Jesus. As we were leaving for church yesterday morning, Jen (who is in AZ visiting her family) said, “This is my favorite Sunday of the year.”
Really? I wondered why.
“I love that the church is still decorated for Christmas, that we sing Christmas carols, and that we honor the Holy Family,” she said.
Well, she was right about two out of three. The church was beautifully decorated with sparkling white lights, many pointsettias, and a lovely nativity scene. We did celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Our gospel, in fact, was Luke’s story of Joseph and Mary making their way to the temple to have their son Jesus purified according to Jewish law.
Unfortunately, and inexplicably, there was not a Christmas carol to be had. That was rather odd, as we generally sing carols up until the Feast of Epiphany. Oh well. There were no carols being sung the day our savior was born so we just had to get a grip.
Our deacon preached the homily, and I really loved what he said. He directed our attention to the pretty Nativity scene that is set up at the front of the church and suggested that we mostly think of Bethlehem when we think of the Holy Family. He reminded us that Jesus, while the son of God, was also a human much like you and I, and had a typical Jewish family life, which included many extended family members. That was the way they lived.
Deacon Bernie told us the most interesting story, supposedly true. Apparently sometime in the 60s, it became apparent that heart disease and cancer was on the rise in the United States, and nobody could quite figure out why. So really smart people who know how to do such things figured out what city in the United States was the healthiest. I can’t even imagine how this could be done, but I’m not a statistician. Anyhoo, it turns out that it was a small community of about 2,200 people in Pennsylvania that comprised mostly Italian immigrants. The unusual thing about this community (according to Deacon Bernie) was that there were hardly any families consisting of only two generations. Instead, most of the family groups consisted of three or four generations living under one roof.
The really smart people concluded that somehow this community of extended family members resulted in healthier individuals. So, he went on to tell the largely older population of the church that our role of grandparent is more important that we even imagined.
Well, as my two-year-old grandson Micah would say, “Ta da!” (In fact, he said those exact words quite loudly at our Christmas Eve service just as the person reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ said that baby Jesus was born.)
But anyway, TA DA indeed. I have long preached just how important our role as grandparents (and aunts and uncles and cousins and all sorts of extended family) is. Every single one of us is an important person to so very many others. As Nana, I am someone who can enjoy my grandkids unequivocally and without judgment or the need to do much more than love them and keep them safe. For example, one day a couple of weeks ago, Addie dropped by on her bicycle. She came into our house and greeted me. I could tell she wasn’t herself. She was feeling sad about something that had happened and needed an ear to listen to her without
judging. That was me. I listened, offered her some likely-less-than-stellar counsel, and gave her a big hug.
She left shortly after, Oreo in hand and feeling better, and I felt so happy that I lived only a couple of blocks from her and that she trusted me.
So I loved that Deacon Bernie endorsed my thoughts on the importance of being a grandparent. I just wish he hadn’t done it only a few days after I have left my grandkids for the warmer climes of AZ and am missing them like crazy!