Obie and Mae Parker! They gave me a great opportunity to demonstrate Christmas hospitality at an age in my young life when I had little notion of such a thing. What was under the tree, gift-wrapped and bearing my name, was uppermost. Sure, the entire Christmas season, well, at least the first 10 days or so getting us into the new year, was filled with church celebrations, festive food, gift exchange, playing in the snow while shivering in the cold whiteness, and family visits. It was a great time to be a kid (mid to late 1950s) and absorb life experiences by the gallon.
Of all the Christmas festivities, the events of visiting relatives, traveling from house to house, and receiving guests in our home remain most vivid. For me the most touching visit came when our elderly neighbors, Obie and Mae, made their annual trek – a few steps journey next door – into our festively decorated living room to be seated, welcomed, and wished the very best of the Christmas season. Handshakes, hugs, and tender kisses were freely given and received. Obie and Mae had no children, and appeared to be in their late 70s or beyond. Well goodness, at my age of 10 or so, everyone appeared ancient, or at least nearly ancient. Obie and Mae were Father and Mrs. Time to me. They moved slowly and cautiously, bearing smiles and an inner joy and happiness that I couldn't miss. I loved them for being our neighbors, pretty much along in their senior years. We were their family, in a way, looking out for them.
My dad would give Obie a carton of Winston cigarettes, which he enjoyed while listening to the radio. Our houses were so close we could hear Obie's loud comments to news or his favorite White Sox during the baseball season when windows and doors were wide open, welcoming the summer breeze.
My mother so graciously and tenderly shared a little gift of an apron or some such thing with Mae. Then we proceeded to talk about how quickly the year was coming to a close, and what a good president we had in Dwight Eisenhower, or surely the ensuing year would find the White Sox beating out the Yankees for the American League pennant (happily fulfilled in 1959!). As my parents served refreshments, we kids had to stay in the room and visit with our guests. By then we had opened our presents, bringing delight to Obie and Mae, as they watched us play.
Looking back, it reminds me of Abraham's and Sarah's experience of the three angels who came by after a long journey and depended on nomadic hospitality for survival in the desert land. Mid-December in northwest Indiana is nowhere near desert conditions, but genuine hospitality and neighborliness are crucial to survival of another sort. In my Christmas days of long ago, Obie and Mae Parker were perhaps angels in disguise, looking for refreshment, companionship, family, and acceptance – all food for life that should grace every Christmas table.
If you have your own tale or memory of Christmas presence (and presents too, that's just fine), take time to share it with someone. Perhaps you too, at Christmas, have unknowingly entertained angels. God has been known to come caroling with songs of joy and hope, and even to "sit a spell" in one's living room and visit. "Here I stand, knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with me" (Rev.3:20.) Receive God's gift of Christmas, and ... expect a visit! A Blessed Christmas to you!
--Michael Dubec, OFM