Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finding That Christmas Feeling

I don’t remember how I lost the Christmas feeling. I just know that sometime during my teenage years the annual Christmas feeling disappeared from my heart. Perhaps it happened after my father’s tragic death when I was 14. Or maybe it was an angry teenager shedding all things heartfelt from his childhood. I don’t remember Christmases ever having the same joyful and peaceful atmosphere as I trudged into adulthood. Christmas was nothing more than an obligation to get over and done with.

That is until one Christmas Eve in 1986. It was a foggy, still night. My new wife (the one true Catholic in the family at the time) wanted to go to Midnight Mass. I begrudgingly went along not sensing what was about to happen.

As we drove to the nearby parish, Mary popped in the new cassette of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music (she has a near obsession with Christmas music). As we rode along the song Silent Night came out of the speakers. I remembered this song being a favorite for my baby sister back when we were little kids.

Every Christmas, we would reenact the manger scene at family gatherings. Erin loved Christmas. She was born with a congenital heart defect and found joy in few things thanks to hundreds of doctor’s visits and heart surgeries endured during her short life. But love Christmas she did. Especially “Mee-Mohs” (chocolate, marshmallow Santa candies) and her beloved toy piano.

One particular year, a few months before she died, Erin unwrapped the toy piano after we regaled the family in the true story of Christmas. I can still hear her playing it in my head.

As I daydreamed while driving, the closing strains of Stille Nacht snuck up and knocked my cold, stony heart for a loop. At the end of the songs, after the rushing of what sounds like some magical wind, the song concludes with a child’s toy piano playing the opening stanza of Silent Night.

As I drove, tears streamed down my face. And I felt it! The Christmas feeling came flooding back to me once again and I have never lost it since.

God works in mysterious ways in our lives. As I listen to the song now, I envision the Holy Spirit in the rushing wind that precedes the child’s toy piano. For this moment to me was a first step back to my Catholic faith after a long prodigal journey. It was a blessed Advent miracle.

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