The best advice I ever got about serving Mass at Christmas…

…It was actually something I overheard.

As I’ve noted before, we have a remarkable cadre of altar servers in my parish—100 of ’em, boys and girls, from ages 8 to 18, every one of them a gem.  They are selfless, generous, enthusiastic and (for the most part, except for a few yawners, scratchers and gigglers) tack-sharp.  (You can see them at work here and here.)

Several years ago, as they were lining up for Midnight Mass—an event that, in and of itself, resembles the tactical planning for D-Day— the priest who supervises them shushed them into silence for a minute and told them he had something to say. I stuck my head out of the door of the sacristy to listen.

“Thank you for being here,” he told them.  “I know you’re excited.  I know you’re tired.  I know it’s late.  But I want to say something.   And this is very very important.”  A hush fell over them.  “For a lot of the people out there,” he continued, quietly, “this is the highlight of Christmas.  In fact, for some people, this is the only Christmas they’ll have.  They won’t get presents.  They may not even have a tree.  They may not have family visiting.  This moment, this Mass, is Christmas.  They look forward to this all year.  So please: think about them.  Make this Mass your Christmas gift to them.  Do your best.  And make this, make everything you do out there tonight, a gift.”  He then led a short prayer and wished them all a Merry Christmas, as the first strains began of “Once in Royal David’s City,” and the march down the side aisle began.

Well, it still moves me to think about that. And I think it’s the sort of advice anyone who serves the church at Christmastime should remember—bishops, priests, deacons, lay ministers, lectors, altar servers, ushers.  Folks, it is all a gift.  Share it with others.  It’s so simple, but in the frenzy of these days—boxes to wrap, albs to iron, cards to mail, suitcases to pack—we can forget why we do what we do. We can become easily stressed, irritated, frustrated, worn out. But we shouldn’t forget:

It is all a gift.  Everything.

So, in the hours ahead, give something that you don’t need to buy, wrap, pack or ship.  Give something that won’t break, wear-out, mildew or need to be refrigerated.

Make a present of your presence.

It’s worth more than you may ever know.

Meantime, some warm words of appreciation to all who serve at Christmas can be found over at The Crescat.  Thanks, Kat!

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