We all rush around this time of year trying to make ourselves ready for Christmas when we will be spending time with family and opening presents and having a special dinner on that one special day. Businesses close and people even take a few extra days off to prepare (or unwind after.) We hope to make this a relaxing, fun, enjoyable day, but it’s not a day off for everyone.
First Responders and those in healthcare (as well as a few other service professions that remain on call) work around the clock and, unfortunately, other than getting some holiday pay, many still work on Christmas as well as other holidays.
My husband used to be an EMT and then a 911 Dispatcher in Boston. He’d rush to get his time off requests in and finagle the schedule so we could find a time for Mass and make sure he was home for the kids to open their presents. I remember a few times I had to pray they didn’t wake up until he got home so he could be part of their excitement. Sometimes, he’d miss Christmas dinner because he would be working that night, but we were sure to start early to work around making sure he could join for at least some of the time.
Ideally, and from a Catholic point of view, we want to make a Holy Day, such as Christmas, an obligation to take off completely, but it’s not possible for some. We do our best and, in the end, find another way to make the day holy. During a shift, a person might be the presence needed by another. He might be holding that person’s hand while family rushes to get there. She might be taking someone out of suicide or calming down an attacker. He might be pulling someone from a burning building or out from under a car crash.
Servants ‘stuck’ working on Christmas have a unique opportunity. While they must be away from family, they can pray especially before and after (and maybe during) their shift to make the time they serve holy, so they can shine that light on those whom they serve. God is aware of this and sent them into this line of work for a reason. He will guide them if they open themselves to His Will for them.
Thankfully, there are often a number of Mass times to find time to attend, even if one is working a 24 hour shift. May we also be aware of the sacrifices our public, healthcare, and other servants make in order to both provide for their families and to celebrate Christmas in a way possible for them.
Lastly, please pray especially for all those who have lost so much right before Christmas and for the responders helping as what they witness and experience will be just as devastating. May all those involved find peace and hope on this coming Christmas day, in Christ’s Name. Amen.