Monday, December 14, 2015

The Five Gifts of Christmas - Week Three: The Gift of Hope

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust.

Wish: to feel or express a strong desire or hope for something not easily attainable; something that may not happen. 

I posted those two definitions above because this week's gift is the Gift of Hope, but so many of us get "hope" and "wish" mixed up. There is a very big difference between the two and I wanted to make sure you all got the right present! So, of course, I have a story to illustrate my point.

Christmas in New York City is a magical time of year for sure. I lived in the borough of Queens so going into the city was our yearly holiday adventure. We would go down into China Town for lunch, take in the Christmas show at Radio City, and, of course, visit the tree at Rockefeller Center and watch the ice skaters - roasted chestnuts were optional! As beautiful as it was, I would have traded it all in a New York minute for a white Christmas. Snow always seemed to just miss the city come December 25 for most of my childhood. Watching all of those Christmas movies on TV, I yearned for a Normal Rockwell, postcard perfect Christmas. Some day, I told myself, some day it will snow for Christmas. It wasn't a wish so much as it was a knowing that sooner or later it had to happen.

Christmas Eve in my home was a double celebration because it was also my father's birthday. My father was born at 12:03 Christmas morning - a boy named Joseph, born to a woman named Mary. It doesn't get more Christmas than that. So on Christmas Eve we would have an open house for all of our family and friends. My mother made homemade pizzas, and we had all manner of finger foods, cookies, fruits of the season, and, of course, Italian pastries! At 12:03 A.M. we toasted my dad and gave him his birthday presents, saving his Christmas presents for when the rest of us opened ours later in the day.

One year in particular, I was up in my parents' bedroom looking out of the windows which faced the street where I could get a good view of all the Christmas lights. It was Christmas Eve and my dad was on his way home from work where he had a gas station and auto repair garage in Brooklyn. We were waiting for him to start the evening's festivities. It had been a cloudy and very cold day, the kind of day my mother always said went right through your bones. I knelt in front of the window and had a talk with God. "God, all my life I've wanted snow for Christmas. I know it's cold enough out tonight for it to happen this year, and I know that You can make it happen. It's not just for myself. I'd love for my dad to have a white Christmas Birthday this year. I hope you will make it happen this year. Thank you. Amen." Just then my mother called for me to come downstairs and help her get the table ready for company.

As we were carrying things back and forth from the kitchen to the dinning room, my mother kept looking at the clock and then out into the darkness. "I hope you father gets home soon," she said. "It's supposed to snow tonight and I don't want him driving in it with all those people out drinking for the holidays (my mother was always certain that the entire world was always out at night drinking and driving)." I don't even remember what she said after that. I was rooted to the spot. Snow? It was supposed to snow? How did she know? Did she have a direct line to God the way she had one to Santa? Had I been paying attention to the radio she had playing in the kitchen all day, every day. as she worked, I would have heard, between Old Blue Eyes and Perry Como singing Christmas carols,  the weather man predicting the chance of the first white Christmas for the Big Apple in years!  A few minutes later we heard my father's key in the door and he came in, stamping his feet. There were a few snow flakes sticking to his hat and coat. I ran past him out onto the porch ignoring my mother's calls to "shut the door before we all freeze to death!" The Christmas lights of the houses up and down the block were reflecting on the filmy, snow covered sidewalks. I knew it! I knew it could happen! Hope is the desire for things that are possible. It is the belief that what we want can and will happen. It is what leads us to make a difference in the world.

This week I give you this Gift of Hope, for a bright and beautiful holiday season, and a peaceful and loving world, because I believe that both are possible.

And so it is.