A little Christmas every day

I attended Christmas Mass at an out-of-town church and, save for the carols, it lacked the Christmas feeling I am used to in the churches of Greater Pittston. Fortunately, the celebrant made up for it.
The priest announced that before Mass could begin, everyone had to offer a greeting to the folks seated near them. That was pretty neat. And, as things often do, it reminded me of a story.
I so wish I could remember this other priest’s name, but I encountered him only once and that was several years ago. He was pinch-hitting at the church I was attending then and he told a story about being assigned pastor at a little, country church where Mass attendance was strong but unenthusiastic. He vowed to do something about that.
The solution he came up with was similar to what I experienced on Christmas, only more so. One Sunday morning, he told the congregation Mass would not begin until everyone there hugged a stranger in attendance. At first, he said, the people just stood there looking dumbfounded. But the priest held his ground and finally, little by little, they sheepishly got out of their pews, found a stranger and gave him or her a hug .. a brief, awkward hug, but a hug nonetheless.
The next Sunday was similarly forced but the priest did take notice of a few smiles here and there. By the third Sunday, not only were the people starting to get into the swing, but one fellow had a surprise in store for the priest. A giant of a man, he left his seat, walked right up to the altar, wrapped his arms around the priest and lifted him clear off the floor. The congregation roared in delight.
From then on, people came to church ready to hug, and hug with all gusto. Eventually, it was hard to find a complete stranger among the group but that didn’t matter. Mass began only after a sea of hugs.
The priest came up with a name for this pre-Mass ritual: Holy Commotion.
The priest from this year’s Christmas Mass also left an impression with his homily.
He told about a family he knows who keeps their Christmas cards in a basket the year around. Each evening at dinner, they select a card at random, share their thoughts about whoever sent the card, and then say a little prayer for them before saying grace.
I’m definitely going to do that next year. At first, I thought, maybe only on Sundays because there’s no way I’ve received 365 cards. But then it occurred to me, what’s wrong with remembering and praying for the same person more than once?
What it comes down to is a little bit of Christmas every single day. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Ed Ackerman