Dear Good People of St. Mary,
When I was home recently I asked my brothers if anyone was interested in keeping the log that has sat on our hearth since 1968. You see, it isn’t any log, it carries for me many memories of our vacation in 1968 when I was seven years old and we went to Wyoming and Colorado. While in Wyoming, my Dad, who I now realize was twenty-five years younger than I am now, had this crazy idea to take a tree trunk from a petrified forest park in Wyoming. As I remember it, these logs were just lying around as if they had dropped from the sky, for miles. There was a broken-down fence with gates that were open; I clearly remember knowing that we were stealing, but it was very exciting. We—my Dad, me and my eight year-old brother John—hoisted this thing weighing what seemed like hundreds of pounds, into the little red wagon we had been dragging my brother Bob around in, then put it in the station wagon, and this log became our travel companion for the next week until it found a home on our hearth. Actually, we rescued a number of them, but this was the granddaddy of all that we pilfered.
The log is something of a marvel; it’s a little hard to wrap your mind around it. It looks like a tree trunk, with bark and all, but it is stone. It was a mature tree that lived 225 million years ago. I wonder what prehistoric bugs are still preserved inside?
Somebody asked me why I wanted it? Such a heavy log-looking rock. So I’ve been thinking about it. It is the same reason we take out the same Christmas ornaments each year and put them on a new (or a newly assembled) tree that takes up space in our home. Sometimes each one of these ornaments carries a different memory with it. I used to enjoy putting up the tree with the family, we would recall different things—this one used to hang on our grandparents’ cotton-white tree with the color wheel that threw changing colors up on it. This one we bought in Venice. That one we made the year we moved to the farm… We would put the tree right in the middle of our great room floor and invite all the memories back into our home.
It’s the same reason we come back around each year to familiar songs and prayers. We decorate with old and newly-created decorations hopefully so that when we walk into church it is newly-assembled to feel fresh and new, and worn, and familiar and home. We have a Eucharist, and in our thanks come to mind all the beautiful and even sometimes tired and always renewing miracles of Jesus. His call is today, throughout the years. The whole family is back in the room, even those who are gone, and we find our anchor, this is really our place, and God is here. I am grateful that you are here with us for Christmas.
Too many people are off on their own today without an anchor, without a story. Let’s write the story for our generation and generations to come, together, here. Let’s enter into the Mystery of Christ as it unfolds this beautiful season, and enfolds us in love.
God bless you, and merry Christmas!