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The following events took place during the Christmas Season 2019-2020.
During the Christmas season what stood out for me more than ever was the fact that Jesus came for all the nations. This was borne out in two lovely events.
The first one was on Christmas Day. We had invited 16 people for Christmas dinner at 5 p.m. We got out all our folding chairs and TV tables, pushed our dining room table against a wall, cooked, and decorated the table for a buffet supper. We had to borrow one chair from the parish.
When everyone arrived, they all introduced themselves. Our guests were from many different backgrounds and ranged in age from eight to eighty. They hadn’t all met before.
We had a lovely meal, topped with Christmas pudding flambé, which received many “oohs” and “aahs.”
After the meal, Lisa gave our guests an ice-breaker containing unusual questions so that they could get to know each other a little. From the kitchen, we could hear laughter and chatter as people walked around and talked to each other in the front room.
After the ice-breaker, we got out our Madonna House songbooks and sang Christmas carols, starting with a verse of “Silent Night,” which we sang in English, French, and German. Then little groups of people got together and sang a verse of Silent Night in their language. It was so spontaneous and amazing.
One friend wanted to sing in Chinese so she asked a guest from Hong Kong if he would sing with her, which he did. A family from Colombia sang in Spanish. A Korean family sang with Emmanuella in their language.
A new friend from India, who was celebrating Christmas for the first time, sang with Lisa in Hindi. (Emmanuella Kim from Korea, Lisa Diniz from India, and I from New York City were the staff at MH Vancouver at the time.)
Finally, a friend who has a Polish background, pulled up the words on her iPhone and sang. All together, “Silent Night” was sung in eight languages.
This was all something that couldn’t have been planned, and it was such a delight. There was so much joy in the room. We were saying our last good-byes at 10:15 p.m.
The next day when our Polish friend came to pick up her husband’s vest, she thanked us for the evening and commented on the singing in so many languages, saying, “That was like the universal Church.”
The second event was our Epiphany party, which was held in the church hall. It’s true we have this every year, but I think this was the best one yet. Though nothing unusual happened, what was so striking was the festive and joyful air.
According to a Madonna House custom, which we introduce in our mission houses, the three Kings give each person a spiritual gift, usually a virtue, written on a piece of paper decorated with a symbol of the Epiphany.
People looked forward to receiving their gifts. Some who couldn’t come asked us to save gifts for their families and coworkers. One friend asked us to save 34 gifts! Every year the list gets longer. People take this very seriously.
Plus it was a party with food and entertainment, and Someone to be celebrated. For most people, it was probably the last party of the Christmas season.
Usually we have a family (parents and baby) representing the Holy Family. We thought we had found the “perfect” family, especially since the parents’ names were Joseph and Mary, but they couldn’t do it.
So we asked another family who had been the Holy Family the year before. Their baby, then one year old, is named Asher (which means happiness in Hebrew) and he was so peaceful and calm. Their other four sons were all shepherds.
A little friend decided to be a sheep. She wore a fleece and some fake animal ears and bent down on all fours to adore the Baby.
We also had difficulty finding three Kings. One of the Kings from the year before returned to visit the Holy Family again. The Kings were so reverent as they followed the star, which was carried by a five-year-old, and they bowed before their Lord and King.
Then they distributed the longed-for gifts. As with our Christmas party, people from many countries had come to celebrate the King of all the nations, their King.
At the end of the party, many guests gladly helped with the clean-up. Emmanuella remarked, “It’s as though the Epiphany party has become their party.”