The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 22, 2000 Issue
Advent/Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas this year

We are our own Holy Family this season because we are so full of reality


By Tom Rinkoski

By the time you read this I will be in Florida with the Holy Family, or at least the Rinkoski version of the same. My wife and I, and our children, will converge on my parents' home. Doing pilgrimages like this is one more reason Christmas is my favorite time of year. Just like the three Wise Men, we will arrive from distant corners (Des Moines, Cleveland, and Green Bay) to converge on a sacred place where this generation of the Rinkoskis will be birthed into existence again. With all my parental powers I will guide Delta Airlines to take off, fly friendly skies, and land safely with my children.

Just like the Wise Men, we will bring gifts. My camel is carrying a puzzle of 1,000 pieces, which will provide the framework for family laughter, frustration, and more storytelling. Stowed are also a board game or two to spark some intergenerational connections between my parents and their grandchildren. Then there are wrapped presents, which I can't tell you about yet, because they are secrets. Keeping secrets is part of the fun of Christmas!

Make no mistake: We are all Holy Families this season. You can't bask in the blessings of Christmas unless you believe it. We are not holy because we fit some pious picture. I don't know about your family, but getting mine to stay still for any picture was a chore! We are holy families because our family relationships are the place where God works. We are Holy Families, not because we are removed from reality, rather because we are full of it.

The ordinary moments of life - meals, work, expressions of love and intimacy, chores, caring for a sick child or elderly parent, even conflicts over money - are the threads from which we weave a Holy Family Pattern. We are Holy Families not because we are perfect at forgiveness, rather because we have plenty of opportunities to practice it. We are holy, not because we are perfect, but because God's grace is at work in us, helping us to set out anew everyday on the way of love.

At our Holy Family gathering, we will take out our Holiday Tablecloth which is embroidered with signatures from 21 Christmases past. Each year is done in a different color of embroidery floss. Just setting the table becomes an act of family storytelling! We see names of people who have gone home to celebrate Christmas with Jesus. Names of people who have sat with us that are written in different languages. We smile at handprints of infants who are now in college, and tell stories about girlfriends' signatures who are no longer a part of the picture. Christmas is a timeless feast whose past, present and future only make the feastday shine brighter.

Just as the manger was the centerpiece of the First Christmas, our family dinner table is the centerpiece of our celebration. It is sitting there, among plates of steaming food, that I learned what a Eucharistic Table was. Don't get me wrong, opening presents is more than fun and exciting. But the smiles and stories of Christmas dance off the "good" china and real glassware in an exciting way!

Gathering in Florida with my parents is akin to the Holy Family's journey to Bethlehem to officially register themselves. We are going to the tribal mother and father to show off our new births with plenty of photos and newspaper clippings. As with most parents, they are checking us out as we are checking in with our roots. We hope that our plans to go swimming on Christmas, (just to be able to tell the story when we get back to the frigid north country!) do not get cancelled like the original Holy Family's room reservations.

The smiles and stories make Christmas. What are yours? What are your traditions and rituals that allow you to glance backward, so you can move forward? The best presents remind you of a glint in someone's eye that you caught while travelling through autumn and Advent. Opening the Christmas presents, reopens the tale and opens up Christmas just a little bit more. You are presents for me. All year, I have Christmas because of you. I am grateful to God for this Christmas and the ones to come every day this year.

May this holyday and its surrounding days be rich and full of abundant blessings. May those blessings be inescapable - felt in every hug, touched in every joyful tear, and heard in every laugh. God bless us all!

(Rinkoski is the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life director. His e-mail address is [email protected].)



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