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Dec 24, 2020 168 Joe Manicone,
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The Wonder of Christmas

Have you experienced the real joy of Christmas? I’ll bet you, it makes your life worth living!

It began at Mass that morning. I walked toward the front of the Church where most Catholic Masses still have room.  But that Christmas day everyone was packed in.  As I squeezed directly in front of a former eighth-grade religious education class student his mouth flew open in wordless surprise.  On our way out, he started with, “Mr. Manicone, seeing you made my day!”  I said sincerely, “Rob, you made mine!”

As I prayed silently after receiving the Eucharist, a man squeezed my shoulder as he passed by with his child. I recognized him, an old friend whose dad died the week before. After mass, I found him outside. “I’m really sorry to hear about your dad—such a great guy. But he must be happy celebrating Christmas with Jesus face to face.” He smiled. 

Walking down the steps, I saw another former student. He spoke with a glow, “Ya know, Mr. Manicone, I chose visiting nursing homes as part of my Confirmation service project. That’s ‘cause of joining you for Christmas caroling last year.” I felt so proud of him: “That’s super, Gary. Just hearing that makes my Christmas happier.”

I headed out to the Care Center to meet this year’s carolers. The residents called out my name and ran to embrace me. Some didn’t want to let me go and hugged me without letting up. They said “Thanks” so wholeheartedly. 

They kept saying, “I love you,” and I did too. These poor and sick under-loved discarded people have nothing to give except their love. And they so much appreciate us allowing them to love us. As prep in the entryway, I tell my companions, “I encourage you to listen to love a little more—unconditional pure giving love. Value your time spent with a person who has no one but you. That time is priceless, and its treasure is in heaven.”

My friend Zeke and I received an instant lesson in love when we happened on two men in their room. One in a wheelchair spoke for the other who could not speak. He gazed at the bedridden man, and asserted, “That one is the most important person in the whole building.” That’s love. Afflictions only seem to heighten love.

Down the hallway, we sang. One woman, Millie, could only grunt. She seemed to know and sing every line, glowing as though singing from the mouth of her heart.

Singers came and left through the day, and the last part in the evening became more intense. A resident named Terry said his long-time roommate had a stroke and didn’t speak or move. As he lay immobile, we sang four songs around his bed. On the way out, I felt compelled to take the man’s hand and bless him, “Andy, I pray that Jesus will let you know how much He loves you—you’re His special friend. Merry Christmas!” His whole body came to life as he lifted himself up, grasped my hand, and exclaimed loudly, “God bless you! I love you.” Wow—the Christmas spirit brings forth life!

Louise at 95 was in excruciating pain when we entered her room. She smiled peacefully as we sang and prayed over her. Mary has lain in her bed staring at the ceiling for years, with no TV or radio–she’s so content. When I asked her what she did with her time, she smiled, “I think.” It made me wonder: If she can be so peaceful, appreciate our singing, and take in our love, could I? 

What a day filled with the awe and wonder of Christmas—Jesus came to me, and I was privileged to bring Him to others. 

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Joe Manicone

©Joe Manicone is a Catholic layman committed to his journey with Jesus. He has a heart for the elderly in nursing homes, young people, adult single peers and responding with conviction to many needs. Joe lives in Pompton Plains, New Jersey.

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