Tradition means a lot to me and tonight will be no different.
When my parents married in November 1956, my mother's younger brothers gave the newlyweds a wedding gift that was an authentic Hummel Nativity set, made back when the nuns in Germany handpainted each one.
It became my family's tradition that the holiday began on Christmas Eve, when we would gather around and read the story of the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke. My parents read it first, and then as I and each of my siblings became old enough, we would vie for the honor of reading the story. After that, my father would very solemnly go to where he had hidden Baby Jesus - for, of course, the Nativity set had been arranged previously, but without the Child - and place Him in the manger. Then he would announce, "The Martin Family Christmas has begun!" and we would all cheer.
Dad is gone now, having passed away in 1995. But Mom lives with me and my family, and has passed on to me the Hummel Nativity set. And so, my family carries on the tradition. Tonight, after the 5:00 pm Vigil Mass for Christmas, we will have our 4th grader read from Luke:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole
world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was
governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own
town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of
Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was
of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed,
who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have
her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him
in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for
them in the inn.
were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch
over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and
the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you
good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For
today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and
Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant
wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the
heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God
in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
And Baby Jesus will be placed in the manger and then, and only then, will the holiday begin.
Merry Christmas to all - peace on earth to men of good will!