Thank You, Christmas Eve Elves

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-food-candy-cane-heart-image1823634Dear Parishioners,

There are many, many “thank you’s” I want to deliver in this bulletin, but there is one in particular that I’d like to begin with: I want to thank the elves…..

You see, in the past few years, a small pack of elves have been visiting the parish grounds early on Christmas Eve. They’re secretive and quiet and no one has seen them, not even myself, but I know they’ve been here……I know because of what they leave on Chantal’s Tree. That’s the tree on the side of church planted in memory of a beautiful and brave little 9-year-old girl who went back to God nearly ten years ago. The tree blooms with gorgeous flowers in the spring and provides a ton of shade in the summer, but by the end of December, it’s pretty bare……at least until a couple of years ago. I think it was the same December as Sandy Hook that the tree first bloomed—not with flowers or leaves or snowballs—with candy canes! Every Christmas Eve since then, hundreds of candy canes appear on the tree just in time for the 4:30pm Mass which just happens to be attended by hundreds of children (a sheer coincidence, I’m sure!). This year, you might remember that it was pouring rain on the day before Christmas, weather so wet that I figured the elves would never be able to wade to Fairfield, let alone “candy cane” a tree. I underestimated the power of Christmas, the power of the heart, because as I made my way over to the church for Mass, the tree was in full bloom, heavy with red-and-whitestriped canes, each kept dry in a cellophane wrapper…..and, after Mass and the next day as well, there was no shortage of harvesters.

So, thank you, Christmas Eve elves. Thank you for ignoring the weather and igniting the wonder of our youngest parishioners this Christmas. Thank you, also, for reminding us older folk that to get to the heart of the meaning of Christmas, we have to look to Easter: that God brings life and goodness to places that are bare and worn and lifeless; Easter mornings for Good Fridays; candy-canes for December branches.

As I think of it, “new life” figures in to all the rest of the “thank you’s” I want to offer. Thank you to all the men and women who brought life to the church environment through their marvelous job of decorating for the Christmas season. Thank you to those who faithfully watered all the poinsettias and to the acrobatic guy who kept the trees around the crèche alive and happy. Thank you to the choir and musicians who brought life to our Advent and Christmas celebrations. Thank you to the liturgical ministers—Eucharistic Ministers, Lectors, Altar Servers and Ushers—who helped us pray together. Thank you to the Youth Group and their efforts with this year’s Giving Tree, helping so many families in need. Thank you to all involved with the Religious Education in the parish, helping us all—young and old—explore the messages of the Christmas season. And thank you all for your amazing financial generosity—both in the collection basket and in all the quiet ways so many of you make donations that are intended to be “passed along to situations in need.”

I see in that generosity something more than Christmas sentiments. I see an endorsement of and investment in the good things that the Lord is doing through our parish community: building of us a multi-gifted people united in the direction they walk; and building through us a Kingdom that God eventually intends for all the world.

For all of that, I am so grateful, so grateful…….to be part of parish which has the faith, hope, and love, to hang candy canes even in the rain…..

Father John