John Kass

For all the children who should be loved always, but especially on this wondrous night, with our arms around them and a long good-night kiss on the temple, a kiss more precious than anything wrapped in a box.

For all the parents who linger in the doorways of the bedrooms, watching those sleeping shapes.

For all the babies who aren't loved and have been forgotten, growing up with a hard crust around their hearts because someone neglected to plant those kisses and give those hugs.

For every couple that adopts to save a life. For every young woman who has given up her a child for adoption to save that life. For all the couples who have tried to have children, yet are unable. For those who've lost their children. For the children who've lost their moms and dads.

For the crazy uncles who will drink far too much tonight and dance and tell wacky stories, before sneaking outside to put on the red suit in the cold, then sneaking back in to surprise the kids.

And for those wise aunts who make sure the coffee is strong, so the crazy uncles sober up.

For the men and women of all the choirs of the world. They've been practicing for months in cold, empty churches. And tonight is the night they've been working toward, the night they carry us with their harmonies.

And for their voices that invite us to humble ourselves, so we may ask for help in scraping away any bitterness that has taken root over the year.

For friends and relatives, the people who don't wait for a special night to build a family. All year they've been building it, with their love and their time. They show up on a Thursday afternoon in June, or a cool morning in November, dropping by just to see if you're OK.

So tonight is for them, and tomorrow, too, because they are family, by friendship, by blood, by the acts of family.

For those who are far away and can't make it home. And for those who've been distant in other ways and worry now that it's too late.

But tonight is the night of new hope.

And the door is always open.

Just reach for it and see.

For the old guys at the end of the bar, nursing their drinks, half watching the TV, men grateful for a warm place and light and the sound of people.

And for the old women alone tonight, awake in bed, remembering such nights past and the laughter of children, those nights that weren't so terribly still, when there was so much to do and a houseful of hungry guests to feed.