It’s Christmas Eve: Cling to the One who never changes

It’s an exciting time. It’s time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Our Savior.

It’s also a time to celebrate family.

But Christmas Eve this year is a little bittersweet. It’s a little sad.

In a minute, I’ll tell you why.

From the time I was a kid until I graduated from college, I had a special Christmas Eve tradition.

I would attend the Christmas Eve service at St. Stephen Protomartyr Catholic Church in South St. Louis with my Grandpa on my dad’s side.

I would go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the early evening. Grandma, a lively and fun lady, would be fluttering around their small home, getting ready for the big evening and all the family who would begin arriving in the hours to come.

Grandpa and I would tell Grandma goodbye and we’d set off in the cold Christmas air and begin walking the three blocks to the church — the same church that Grandpa had attended his entire life. Other people would be walking there, too. Many hellos and Merry Christmases were shared along the way.

The church was always packed, so much so that people would be sitting along the windowsills under the large stained glass windows that lined both sides of the sanctuary. The church smelled of incense and was decorated with greenery of all sorts. Christmas trees stood near the altar. The choir was dressed up and ready to sing.

And I remember it was loud. People talking, sharing stories, grandparents introducing their grandchildren to their neighbors. Grandpa would glad hand his friends and neighbors while I followed close behind, taking it all in. It was special to see large families gathering for the holiday, the time to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

After church, we’d walk back home and celebrate with Grandma and the family into the wee hours of Christmas morning.

Always a special time.

Here’s why I’m a little sad today.

Yesterday (Sunday), Corinn and I traveled with our sons from Texas to St. Louis to celebrate Christmas with our families. On my dad’s side of the family, we were coming up for one last Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa’s. I say “one last Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa’s” because Grandma has been in ill health and told me that this would probably be the last year she’d host the gathering.

But yesterday, Grandpa had to take Grandma to the hospital. Nothing life-threatening. She’s just so weak and dizzy.

We visited Grandma at the hospital last night. She looked good, but weak, and thankfully was as feisty as ever — joking with us and teasing a bit.

We asked if we should check on Grandpa. She said yes.

We visited him at home. The Christmas tree was decorated. We had a great time reminiscing and sharing stories. We laughed some. We stayed very late.

But Grandpa is sad that his sweetheart is sick. They met when they were 13. They married when he was 19 and she was 20. That was 64 years ago.

This is the first time in decades they won’t host their Christmas Eve party.

So, Christmas Eve this year is different for all of us on that side of the family.

And we’re probably not unlike thousands of families across the country who are celebrating differently this year. Maybe, like us, with the loss of a tradition. Maybe, like my good friend, they lost a cherished member of the family and are celebrating for the first time without that person.

I think especially of those families in Connecticut who are suffering this Christmas without their children and loved ones.

Honestly, I don’t know what the church marketing lesson is here. Maybe it’s to cling extra tight to those around you. More importantly, though, it’s probably to cling to the One, our Savior Jesus Christ, who will never fade, who will never leave, who will never ever change.

Leave a Reply