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Remembering what matters on Christmas Eve

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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.

For young parents who feel overwhelmed. For older moms and dads out of work or underemployed, with bills pressing down hard upon them, good people who refuse to let their children see fear.

For everyone on the night shift tonight, and those who must work tomorrow, and the police and firefighters and paramedics, and their families who wait for them at home.

For all those in hospitals who pray for dignity and relief and an end without shame or suffering. For their physicians who care for them. For the nurses entering those hospital rooms tonight, pulling up chairs, listening to quiet confessions.

For the clergy who have struggled with belief, yet find it again and are renewed.

For every sailor at sea tonight -- especially those on watch on the bridge -- staring out into cold, black water, remembering brightly lit rooms.

For the members of the U.S. armed forces who protect us with their bodies and their lives. For the members of the U.S. Foreign Service and for the intelligence services. And for their loved ones, who wait for them.

For those who hold true, and prize liberty over security. For those who keep their faith and refuse to be shamed away from it.

For the tornado-ravaged towns of Moore, Okla., and Washington, Ill. For the Philippines. For the young claimed by street violence. And for the detectives who hunt for the killers.

For our great nation, and for the American people, who never, ever quit.

And for everyone who has kept hold of what is important about this night:

It is the message brought by that perfect child who came to light the world, the one born in a manger in Bethlehem so very long ago.

He is the gift.

And it is all about love.

And I hope it comes to you, and comforts you, and remains.

From my wife Betty, our boys and me, from my brothers and their wives, from my mother Yia-Yia and her seven grandchildren, from all of us to all of you and yours.

Merry Christmas.

(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM. His e-mail address is, and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.)

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