The real Christmas gifts: Family and Friends

Fr. Bill Sullivan
December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Columban Fathers. This is the last advent reflection in our series.

It was Christmas morning 1946. Midnight Mass was over. Family and friends returned to our home, as was the usual custom after Midnight Mass. The only thing missing was my brother Jack.

Chicken soup was on the stove. The chicken and soup had been cooking since before Mass. Coming in from the cold, we would be warmed by the tasty soup.

Our E-Journey through Advent is a series of six emails throughout the advent season, each with a different reflection from a Columban priest or staff member.

Members of the family were moving in and out of the kitchen, dining room and the parlor. In the front room the Christmas tree was beautifully decorated with different colored Christmas lights and bulbs. Presents were placed haphazardly under the tree.

Other than my brother Jack’s absence, it was picture perfect. People talking away, Christmas hymns playing, “Glory to God in the highest, peace and goodwill to all.” There was just a joyful atmosphere. But, there was something missing.

I have six brothers and three sisters. All were in the area.

Except Jack. He was in our thoughts.

Jack was with the army in Naples, Italy. We knew he was due home soon on rotation. How soon we didn’t know. But we hadn’t made it back for Christmas Mass, and we missed him.

While presents were being opened and eggnog being served, the doorbell rang.

It was 2 a.m.

I opened the front door.

There was Jack.

A duffle bag was slung over his shoulder. His troop ship landed in New York earlier Christmas Eve. While we were at Mass, Jack was on a bus to Boston. What a Christmas present for all of us!

It gave me a wonderful feeling to have all the family together again. To this day it was an experience I’ll never forget. It was the best Christmas gift a family could receive.

God certainly is the God of surprises.

In life, it’s the people that count. All the material things in the world don’t mean a thing.

I’m a little older now and still it’s family and friends that are important in life.

Don’t you forget it!

We hope you enjoyed our E-Journey through Advent series. We’re planning an E-Journey through Lent this spring, so stay tuned, or sign up!