On this holiest of nights, we all have cherished memories of a special Christmas Eve at some time in our lives. For many, our memories center on family and friends, dinners and celebrations, tree trimming and stocking stuffing, caroling and attending church. But whatever our most precious memory on this holiest of nights, we hold it dear and treasure it. Tonight, I share my memory of a very special Christmas Eve with you.
When I was thirteen, we lived in a very small town in northeastern Vermont. Our primary livelihood came from summer tourism, and winters were long, harsh and bitter. Although I worked part time in the town library after school, fifty cents an hour was simply not enough to even buy food for my parents and for myself. Groceries were scarce, heating bills high, and debt weighed heavily in my young shoulders.
Christmas dinner had sometimes been reduced to baking powder biscuits, and my gifts to things like toothpaste, shampoo, or notebooks for school.
This year, my father had gone to New York City to sell Christmas trees about three weeks before Christmas, and was due to arrive home around 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The night was clear and bitterly cold, with temperatures plummeting to fourteen below zero. I drove my Dad’s old Chevy to the train station so that he would not have to walk the mile and a half home in the cold and dark. I turned the car on and off, just long enough to stay a little bit warm while I waited for the sound of the train whistle or the slightest quaking of the ground as the weight of the train bore down on the tracks.
Gazing into the night, I saw bright stars, shining almost as if a beacon to being my father safely home.
When the train finally pulled into the station near Crystal Lake, my Dad was the only passenger to get off, grasping the batterer satchel he had carried during World War II. He has come home with over $250 in cash and gifts for my mother and for me. Later, in the warmth of the kitchen, I counted and recounted the money, feeling wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.
This was the year that I learned what Christmas Eve is really all about. It’s about a guiding star to bring us all home, home to our families and loved ones, home to the manger in Bethlehem, and home to God. It’s about love and about peace on earth. It’s about rebirth and renewal, and riches beyond our imagination. It’s about our Lord and Savior, Christ the Lord, born on this holy night and reborn within our hearts each Christmas Eve.
My father’s return will remain a cherished memory, but the birth of Christ, the true spirit of this holiest of nights, will be reborn again every year. And, as we look at the Christmas star, let us rejoice in this birth and the glory of this blessed holy night. And, may we all be home for Christmas!