Bring on the Christmas stories and peace

Column by Ken Rolheiser

Warm thoughts of Christmas and the birth of love touch our hearts just as the dead of winter starts to grip us on the cold December days. Christmas stories fill us with hope and joy once again. From death comes rebirth.

There is an inspirational Christmas story told about an Indiana woman whose abusive husband abandoned her and their six children. In her efforts to feed them she got a job working at the Big Wheel truck stop. She worked nights so a sitter could tend her sleeping family.

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The tires on her old car leaked so badly she had to fill them before she went to work and after her shift. One night she left work to find four new tires in her Chevy. She struggled on, painting some of the old toys so she would have something to put under the tree on Christmas morning.

As she left work Christmas night, she hoped she would get home in time to put the toys under the small cedar she had found by the road-side. Her attention was caught by some dark shadows inside the car.

Climbing in, she faced the back seat and investigated the box shapes. One had clothes in a range of sizes. There were toys and boxes of food.

As she drove back through empty streets the sun slowly rose on the most amazing

Christmas Day of her life. She sobbed with gratitude. The joy on the faces of her little ones that precious morning told her there were angels in Indiana that long-ago December, and they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.

God still sends the angels of Heaven to our aid, even as he once sent them to uncouth shepherds to announce the birth of love in a manger.

Another story reminds us to “stay awake” spiritually. According to Cherokee traditions when the trees were first created, they were given a challenge to stay awake for seven days and seven nights. The first day and night were easy, but by the third night some of the trees were nodding off.

On the eighth day only the coniferous trees remained awake. As a reward the creator allowed them to remain ever green and to provide shelter for the birds even in the harshest winter winds.

Advent, too, challenges us to “stay awake.” Liturgical readings about the end times remind us that there will be a reward for those who keep a warm heart towards their family and neighbours. We will be judged on how well we have loved.

“Christmas brings us all back to the crib of life to start over again: aware of what has gone before, conscious that nothing can last, but full of hope that this time, finally, we can learn what it takes to live well, grow to full stature of soul and spirit, and get it right” – Joan Chittister.

Christmas is the time to send messages to those we love. It is a time to share peace in a world of conflict. Consider how many times God forgives us if we but ask. Now think of that brother or sister or another that you find it impossible to forgive even once.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This year, from sheer repetition, let’s get it right!