Ut gaudium Christi! To bring the joy of Christ! Today we enter our fourth and final week of this Advent Season! For Linda and I, this has been the most memorable Advent we have ever experienced because this year we dedicated ourselves to embracing this most holy season as a family with our boys to teach them about bringing the joy of Christ to others!
Our home schooling group were planning to go Christmas Caroling at a local nursing home. Christmas Caroling is a lost tradition so it was something I was very dedicated to doing with the boys and what better place than at a nursing home. We practiced for two weeks, learning all the traditional Christmas songs such as The First Noel, Silent Night, and the boy’s favorite, Hark the Herald. We discussed with the boys what a nursing home was and why people where there and how a lot of times the residents were not happy to be there, mainly because they do not get many visitors hence why we were going to Christmas Carol there. The boys couldn’t have been more excited to go! Once we arrived, they did wonderful interacting with the residents by handing out St. Nick prayer cards and other presents and of course singing! This is something I would not have done well at as a kid but because we talked so much about what to expect and why we were going, it really instilled in them their purpose of bringing joy!
They have enjoyed caroling so much we have continued to do it by going to friends and family houses to sing as well! The Binggeli Brother’s will be performing their last concert in Wichita next week! What Linda and I have loved so much is the endless singing of songs throughout the house! Their favorite song is Hark the Herald which they sing constantly now!
We also went and visited my Grandpa, Noah’s Great Grandpa last week. He currently is in a nursing home as well and usually just my dad and I go but I wanted to take Noah this time because I knew it would bring my Grandpa much joy to see and play with him and it turned out to be a wonderful visit for all of us! Noah played cards, tic-tac-toe, and puzzle games with Grandpa. It was amazing to sit back and see how well Noah interacted with him. The nursing home setting didn’t phase him a bit, saying hi to the residents there and the workers! I asked him if he wanted to come with me to pick up lunch at Wendy’s to bring back but he said no, he wanted to stay behind and help with Grandpa! Although he has only seen Grandpa a few times, he acted like they were long life friends! Besides all the games, they both enjoyed chocolate covered cherries together!
We also brought much joy to a very poor family in need. As I was reading my National Catholic Register, they had a small write up by Food for the Poor, an organization that helps families throughout South and Central America and The Caribbean. Many families they help live in terrible, make shift houses, usually made from rusted out metal, wood or other scrap material. The article featured a family with a single mom and four small children. The woman’s husband had died unexpectedly, leaving her with the four children, whom were about the same age as our children.
The mother’s only prayer was for a safe house for her children who were currently living on the side of a mountain in a tin house. After Linda and I read the article we were immediately moved by the Holy Spirit to provide a home for a family like this in desperate need; a way to give back for all that God had blessed us with with our new house for our family.
Linda and I decided that we would contribute enough money to cover the cost of a new home with working water and sanitization as a Christmas gift to one of these families. We showed pictures of these houses and the people who lived in them to the boys and they were very intrigued about what they saw. We didn’t tell the boys what we were going to do but after we sat down and read the article to them, we asked them, “What do you think we should do about this?” and Eli was the first to say, “We need to get them a house!”, which Linda and I replied, “You’re right! And we will get them a house for Christmas!”
I hope that each year Linda and I will have the financial resources available that every Christmas we can buy a house for a family! I encourage anyone who reads this to go to Food for the Poor’s website to find out how you too can help the world’s poorest among us.
While this Advent has been so special it has also come with much struggle. Isaac is barely sleeping and has gone weeks now with just 4 or 5 hours a sleep A DAY! This has been very physically hard for Linda and I and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Noah has also been struggling with focusing on his school work which has been draining emotionally on Linda. We do our best to keep carrying these small crosses, for Mary and Joseph too suffered on their long journey to Bethlehem, Mary being 9 months pregnant having to ride a donkey, being left to stay outside in a barn. Our crosses seem so small compared to what they went through! Like Mary and Joseph, God will see us through our struggles and reveal to us the greatest joy!
I started this last week of Advent by going to Eucharistic Adoration and Noah wanted to go with me. I always hesitate for some reason but I usually let him come along. He enjoys coloring while I am there so I told him to color a picture of us all around the Christmas tree. He told me, “Wow, that’s going to take me awhile!” Good I thought, it will give me some time to pray without him hassling me. I am on my knees praying for God’s help and relief from these past weeks of no sleep, aching muscles, rebellious children and other bitterness that had crept into my heart. Pleading for guidance I sat back in my chair and just said, “God, I will just listen, tell me what I am suppose to do.”
On the other side of the wall, the piano and organ started playing and a multitude of voices started singing Hark the Herald. Noah and I both looked up at each other and smiled. He put down his crayons and started conducting and singing! I joined him and together we sang our song together! I just sat and smiled as big as I have smiled in a long time. My eyes couldn’t help but water and Noah just kept conducting and singing! What immense joy that came over me!
Noah then finished his picture, which he had worked on for 45 minutes! It was our Christmas Tree, surrounded by the Nativity and our family. He asked me, “Daddy, how do you write Merry Christmas to all of you”, so I typed it out on my phone and he copied it on to his drawing and then signed his name. My heart just bursting with love and complete joy at his picture. I told him I loved his picture and that we would laminate it when we got home because I wanted to keep this picture forever! I tried to tell him that it was simple gifts like this that are priceless, no other gift can compare.
Ut gaudium Christi! To bring the joy of Christ! We had brought it to many others this Advent but in the end, I too needed it and through the sounds of a familiar song, a picture and my own son, God showered me with joy, the joy I longed for and needed.