Family Faith by Selina Venier
THIS time last year I wrote about being away from the comforts of home on our summer adventure.
I’d missed my own bed and even the humble washing machine.
Our family “lived and breathed” each other in a mobile “house on wheels” travelling 5000km in 12 days.
They were memorable, blessed times – an overseas visitor among us, an unknown church for Christmas Mass, strangers who became friends on the road and the opportunity to see more of this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
So when My Dearly Beloved announced last Advent he preferred we “stay home for lunch” after Mass on Christmas Day I was somewhat shocked.
Nothing against travelling or invitations to go elsewhere, he was adamant it was time to focus on our nuclear family for that particular meal, after which all else and others would follow.
The fact we live a significant distance from family, had an almost-six-month-old and were visiting for a week after Christmas anyway meant his request made a great deal of sense.
Flashes of Christmases where we’d made at least three visits and eaten enough for three days, mostly to be polite, in a 12-hour period, came flooding back.
They too were memorable and blessed times but so rushed.
I remembered feeling as though I hardly had a whole conversation with anyone.
I remembered hoping the array of food, beautifully prepared, could be enjoyed by more people with less blessings.
I remembered feeling overwhelmed with the gifts received and a sense of not being able to justify it. I remembered feeling exhausted. It was a happy kind of exhaustion but exhaustion none the less.
When family came to us for a Christmas meal my joy and exhaustion were perhaps in override. By that I mean I had to keep going until the final dish was washed and put away. As anyone who hosts Christmas would know, it takes some time and effort to get to that final dish!
Of course there were always many hands to help and a sense of having enjoyed the day because of the smiles on all the children’s faces and the togetherness, however brief, felt.
So the idea of sitting in our own home for Christmas lunch with the people whom we share most meals together throughout the year seemed a foreign concept.
I looked at Master Almost Six Months who knew nothing about the blessed Feast of Christmas on our doorstep and pondered his father’s request.
Master Almost Six Months had seen the Christmas lights, helped adorn the tree with its own sparkle and felt the imminent heat of the season in this part of the world.
I suspect he also felt our extra busyness. I hope he understood our extra prayerfulness to counter it.
I prayed we could find a balance between welcoming the Christ child with the dignity, respect and time he deserved, of giving thanks for his blessings and of celebrating with those we hold most dear.
So for the first time in my life, Christmas lunch was exactly as My Dearly Beloved proposed – our nuclear family at home and together. It was perhaps the most memorable and blessed Christmas yet.
With the extra time we enjoyed Mass twice – on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Both extended our prayerfulness and togetherness.
Each family member was responsible for the shopping and preparation of a course of the lunch. Miss 12 took antipasto, My Dearly Beloved homemade the pasta, I baked the ham and Miss 10 prepared the desserts, twice, just to be sure of their adequacy.
All of our finery came out of the glass cabinet and drawers.
The gift-giving was simpler and the Misses asked for it to follow Mass and not precede it.
I thought this extraordinary because they’d shopped and wrapped gifts with their own, limited pocket money and were so excited about the unwrapping. It was almost as though they too desired less rushing and for the feast itself to be enjoyed as long as possible.
The Misses knew to be patient for other gifts when seeing extended family later in the week too and accepted it without issue, likely for the same reason.
Looking back I realised the perfection of our celebrations.
They were more humble than ever and as a family we felt closer than ever.
We also looked forward to seeing our relatives with greater anticipation and appreciation.
So just like the Christ child, all Master Six Months had to do was turn up and smile.
And that they did.