I have a confession. I’m not in the pews on a weekly basis. I’m at Mass on Christmas, Easter, and the occasional Ash Wednesday service.
The last time I went to confession, George W. Bush was in the middle of his first term. So, I guess it’s been approximately…14 years since my last correspondence. My relationship with God has been a work in progress ever since I graduated from high school. I went to Mass weekly in college, yet started to drift away in my mid-twenties.
But, here I am, Father, in my early thirties, insistent that my husband and I attend Christmas Eve Mass while we visit his family in New England. My father-in-law has graciously volunteered to attend with us. From where you are on the altar, we’re the trio in the far-left corner. Everyone else is back at home, preparing for Christmas Eve dinner.
I’m sneaking this Mass in between the shrimp cocktail and the last man standing 10 p.m. reading of T’was the Night Before Christmas. I’m hopeful that you have a welcoming message for me this time, as opposed to the “Haven’t seen these pews this full in awhile!” remarks I’ve heard year after year. I’m looking for a little reassurance that there’s still room for me in this faith.
So, here’s what I need you to know this Christmas:
- I’m not the most devout, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t important to me. I’m away from my immediate family and childhood customs at Christmas. Besides making thumbprint cookies, 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass is a tradition I want to incorporate wherever I am. My parents, sister, and I would attend Mass at this time every year before going home for Christmas Eve dinner and a movie. We’d spend Christmas Eve together, just the four of us, before meeting up with extended family on Christmas Day. Even though we haven’t spent the season together these last few years, it’s my small tribute to our routine.
- Rephrasing the “full pews” remarks to make Mass a little more welcoming would go a long way. With so many people back home with their families, the potential for conflict is rife: everyone jammed into one house, getting stuck with cold water if you landed the last shower spot, little to zero alone time to recharge. A smile with a gentle “Great to see so many smiling faces!” would go much further.
- I want to feel connected to God again. I admire people who are filled with faith, despite my skeptical nature. Christmas isn’t Christmas to me without thanking God for all the blessings He’s given me throughout the past year. I’m so fortunate, and I want to say thanks before the eggnog starts flowing.
In short, Father, I need you to think of me like you’d think of the Magi this Christmas. I’m coming from elsewhere, still seeking the promise of a better relationship with God. I didn’t bring any incense (just craft beers for the cousins and toys for my nephew), but I’m hoping to share in something special this Christmas Eve. Thanks for opening up a small place in your pews for me.
Displaced Midwesterner in New England
P.S. Maybe reconsider playing "Go Tell It On The Mountain" during Communion. "Silent Night" is the jam we all want and need.