A delicious feeling of hope was in the air last weekend as I attended Mass on the first Sunday of Advent.
Our community of believers welcomed the season with joyful anticipation, as we made our way through the new Roman missal and sang familiar hymns foretelling the birth of Christ.
I can’t help but liken this season of patience to the great eagerness experienced by a bride and bridegroom. Together, they wait to exchange marriage vows and, ultimately, the special moment of their wedding night when the two truly do become one.
Thirty-five years ago I was a newly engaged young woman anxiously awaiting my wedding day (see the photo here). I wore a beautiful gold engagement ring with a diamond set on a black background. The glow on my face that Christmas Eve was surely a reflection of the love in my heart.
I remember that year well, as it was the last time I would celebrate Christmas Eve alone with my parents and brothers.
As we unwrapped presents under the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, my mother presented me with a special bracelet engraved with my initials.
But that year, something was different. Mom had replaced my last initial of “G” with a “T” for my soon-to-be new last name of Tess. I was ecstatic with this special gift!
My impending marriage would be a time of transition for everyone in my family. Since I was the only daughter, my mom, who had delighted in making me a girlie-girl, would become the only woman in a “man cave.”
My younger brothers were looking forward to taking over my bedroom so that each of them could have a room of his own.
And my dad would no longer have to worry about who his daughter was out with and what time she would be home. He heartily approved of my fiancé, so Dad’s responsibility to his daughter was a done deal.
By the following Christmas, Steven and I would not only be married but caught up in the joyful anticipation of expecting our own precious baby boy.
That year I would walk the path of Advent with patience and a new-found appreciation for our Mother Mary on her trip to Bethlehem.
Over the years, we had the pleasure of welcoming not just one but three baby boys. One year, Steven and I were even asked to take part in our parish’s midnight Mass by donning the costumes of Joseph and Mary while cradling our baby Michael, who represented none other than the newborn Jesus.
Pretty heady stuff for a baby boy named after an archangel, wouldn’t you say?
Many years have come and gone since that last Christmas Eve in my parent’s home.
We developed our own traditions and each Christmas Eve, Steven and I would take the boys to a children’s Mass and then come home to a wonderful supper. Afterwards we would all drink egg nog and eat Christmas cookies before tucking the boys into bed.
We sat up late many Christmas Eves waiting for little heads to finally hit the pillow before Santa could work his magic under the tree.
We may have only had a few hours of sleep during those early years, but we wouldn’t have traded the joy on our sons faces each Christmas morning for anything in this world.
For most of our marriage we were fairly poor as far as wealth but definitely rich in spirit.
The most memorable gift that Santa ever gave to my sons was a workbench made by
Steven and his favorite elf. It was truly a labor of love, which our sons delighted in because it was obviously made in “Santa’s workshop,” unlike anything their friends received from that jolly old man.
During those years of loss, I again patiently walked the path to Bethlehem with our Mother Mary during the Advent season, but this time with an appreciation for all she had given up at the cross on Calvary.
Since Steven’s death I have developed new traditions. I put up a Christmas tree with just four of our old ornaments. There is one ornament for each of my sons and one representing my marriage to Steven. Everything else is something new and different that I’ve collected over the years.
I also have a new, smaller nativity set of my own, which in my mind represents Mary and that journey she took so long ago and far away as she waited in joyful anticipation for the coming of the baby Jesus.
Life does come full circle.
I will celebrate Christmas this year with my parents, brothers, sons, daughters-in-law and granddaughters. Yes, that’s right: I, the mother of only boys, buy lots of pink today
because there are girlie-girls in my family once again.
There is also a handsome CatholicMatch fellow who I plan to kiss under the mistletoe at least once this season.
And by the way, if any of you happen to see Santa this year, could you mention that all I really want for Christmas is for my sweetie to sing Silent Night to me?
As you journey through Advent this year, I hope your heart is full of love as you patiently await the birth of our Lord and Savior.
Here’s another seasonal reflection from a CatholicMatch member, titled “Trimming The Tree & Untangling Mixed Emotions.”