Saturday, January 16, 2016

Christmas at the Marquard

Katherine Pashkevich

Two nights before Christmas, all of us volunteers were able to gather together at the home of Steph J, our community assistant. As we were all seated around the table after dinner, someone suggested we go around and share our favorite Christmas memory. It was so special to hear everyone’s unique stories and traditions and to be able to share mine, as well. Thinking back on that night now, after Christmas has passed, I know that years down the road when I am again asked to share my favorite Christmas memory, Christmas at the Marquard will be at the top of my list.

Holiday wishes from a few of our guests.
On Christmas Eve, I was hanging out in the lobby with our guests during dinner. I didn’t expect to feel this way, but it was really difficult for me to be around all of my new friends on this joyous holiday. My heart hurt for them – that they had nowhere else to go, no family, no traditions, no presents waiting under the tree. Of course, I was so happy to see them at the Marquard, but really, it was heartbreaking to know that Christmas was just another day in their routine. Especially on a holiday that we all have such rich memories of, it was incredibly frustrating to realize that many of our guests cannot say the same. Needless to say, I was pretty upset for the rest of the evening.

Some of the community had decided that we would go to midnight mass later that evening. It was during Christmas mass that I finally found some consolation for the feelings of despair I had felt earlier in the day. We began to sing “Away in a Manger,” a song I have always loved, but which carried a whole new meaning when I heard it this time. The lyrics of this song consumed my thoughts throughout mass and reminded me that our God is a God of the poor. The story of Christ’s birth is a story of poverty. He was born into a family that did not come from wealth. He was born in a manger – a feeding trough for animals. During his ministry, Jesus chose the company of the poor. The truth is: if Jesus were walking around on earth today, he would come to the Marquard; these would be his people. Jesus has a special place in his heart for the poor – for those without food, money, homes, or family. He empathizes with our sufferings and our limitations. Christmas is a season especially for those who are having a difficult time in the world. It is a time when we celebrate God’s coming to earth and becoming weak for us so that we might grow stronger. Christmas is a season of hope.

Modeling our new Christmas pajama pants :)
So, even though I was away from family and went without traditions, this Christmas – more than any other Christmas I’ve experienced – truly felt the most like Christmas. So often, the idea of Christmas is completely absorbed by consumerism, leaving little room to think about much else. However, Christmas at the Marquard has changed my views on the holiday and my ideals for how I want to celebrate Christmas in the future. Christmas is not about asking for more and waiting for these new gifts to fulfill our desires. Rather, Christmas is about being aware of what we already have, being thankful for the blessings in our lives, enjoying the people God has planted in our lives, and giving hope to those who cannot do the same.

I have to admit that this was the hardest Christmas I’ve had to face. But I can also say, without a doubt, that Christmas at the Marquard is my new favorite Christmas memory.