by Fr. Kevork Arakelian
Christmas 1991. But we first need to go back to the summer of 1989 when a young 28-year-old parishioner of mine was diagnosed with cancer. Just about one year later, her mother discovered that she too had cancer. With both mother and a daughter battling the ravages of this disease, there could be no Christmas celebration in the household as 1990 rolled around into 1991; neither on December 25 nor January 6. Due to unavoidable doctor’s appointments around the holidays, the family decided to celebrate their Christmas on Saturday, January 12.
About that time I was told that Christmas in this household had been spoiled by illness. I spent two or three sleepless nights thinking about what could be done for this family who had not celebrated Christmas. On Friday night, January 11, I sat up suddenly and realized that we could do something. We could do something as a parish.
The following morning I got out of bed and told my wife Sandra what I was going to do. I thought to call some friends of this family and get them all together, to meet at a particular point and sing Christmas carols. That morning I spent some time telephoning very close friends whom I thought would like to participate in this “Christmas Caroling.” Twenty or so people gathered down the street from where this family lived, passing out Christmas carol books and deciding what we would sing. As we approached the driveway of the house, we all began to sing Christmas carols. We rang the doorbell and the mother opened the door-at first she didn’t quite realize what was going on-and tears came to the her eyes.
We went into the living room and we continued singing Christmas carols. Most of the time there was not a dry eye in the house. We sang the traditional home blessing hymn at Christmas, “Khorhoort Medz,” read the Gospel, blessed the house, then broke the bread and blessed the water.
With us that special day were two seminarians who were visiting from St. Nersess Seminary. One seminarian said to me later that day, “Christmas: Is it December 25th or January 6th? After today’s experience I can say that it is neither one. Christmas can occur any day.”
How true that statement was, for that day I believe all of us who were there-the parishioners who sang carols, as well as the family and the extended family-realized that Christmas is really all about love; about the birth of love coming into the world. Christmas is all about the love that Christ has given us so that we can share it with others. All we have to do is look for opportunities to share it and to so to celebrate Christmas any day of the year.
In the summer of 1991 the young woman entered her eternal rest and we all miss her terribly. Her mother recovered fully. As a priest, I will probably never see a Christmas like this. All of us who remember that Christmas hope and pray that we were able to bring some love to that family. We hope that we were able to help them understand what church is really all about: that Christ came into the world to love us and to save us.