"I wonder why I didn't ask the questions," wrote Brenda Ritter, in a reflective article submitted to the Christian Family Movement. Read her thoughts, published below, and you'll know why it is important to take the time at Christmas to make a difference.
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There was nothing to look at except the wall of the building next door, but every afternoon she sat in her rocking chair and stared at that window-framed wall. As the chair slowly rocked back and forth, a far-away look crept into her eyes, and the lines on her face seemed to disappear. Slowly tranquility possessed her body, as she rested her head on the back of the chair and turned her face toward the window. With a lace collar resting on the shoulders of her ankle-length dress and jeweled combs capturing her white hair in a bun, she took on an air of simple elegance. The occupants of the house seemed to ignore her, but I always wondered where my great-grandmother went every afternoon while sitting in her rocking chair. Although I was very young, I knew she was mesmerized by her thoughts and reliving her memories.
Now this recurring memory haunts me, for I understand that her dreams were my heritage. Although a language barrier limited our communication, I wonder why I didn't ask the questions, and why she didn't share the stories? As I grow older, I realize that story telling is how we communicate who we are. If we don't listen, our history will be buried in the grave, never to be resurrected.
Man has handed down stories from one generation to the next since time began. He told the story of a promised savior centuries before Christ came. Since then, the Christmas story has been retold for more than 2,000 years and even with the passage of time, it is the same story that our ancestors heard many years before us. It is a story of love and a promise of salvation. In it we can find the answers to the questions in every heart, "Who am I, and what is the purpose of my life?"
"Everything written before our time was written for our instruction, that we might derive hope from the lessons of patience and the words of encouragement in the Scriptures." (Romans 15:4.)
However, the Christmas story is but the beginning of the story of a promise fulfilled. The first caretakers of the story were threatened with death if they passed it on. So the story was preserved in their hearts and whisperedin safe places. Now, we are its caretakers, and we must pass it down, just as we must pass down the story of who we are and those who came before us. "Oh God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds; And now that I am old and gray, Oh God forsake me not 'till I proclaim your strength to every generation that is to come." (Psalm 71:17-18.)
This Christmas, as we gather around family and friends, let us remember the stories our grandparents told so they can live in the hearts of future generations.
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Many families and groups have made it a custom to visit nursing homes, to sing Christmas carols and to spread some holiday cheer. Now is the time to promise to return to the nursing home, not to sing, but to listen and learn from those who live there.
Many persons send Christmas letters to friends and acquaintances, includingan update of the blessings received in the past year. Perhaps this is the year to write such a letter to your children, to acknowledge the blessings received in your family this year.
New people are arriving in all parts of our country, people who speak languages different than our own. Take the time to make sure someone in your parish or city is able to listen to these strangers. They, like Jesus, have come to make their home among us.
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