Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It Feels Like Christmas

A part of childhood we'll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love it feels like Christmas

I realize Halloween is still 5 days away and that means Thanksgiving is a month away which means Christmas is two months away. That being said, I'm already in the Christmas spirit. It might've started when I first spied the Christmas fabric on display at Jo-Ann's. Or when I dragged Katie with me to buy some of said Christmas fabric at Jo-Ann's. This was in late August or early September. I can't remember exactly. I've been just itching for Christmas this year.

Which is unusual for me but not new. I used to love Christmas. I suppose all children do, despite the depressing existence of young boy Scrooge. What kid doesn't get ants in their pants for Santa Claus and presents and looking at Christmas lights? The coming of Christmas also meant the coming of my birthday. Born just two weeks before Christmas I would get birthday cake with a side of Christmas cookies. My mom was great at making birthdays special. She made Ace of Cakes style cakes before anyone had ever heard of Duff and his Baltimore bakery. We'd have a gaggle of little girls over for games and gifts and cake and cookies. And my excitement would only grow as Christmas drew ever nearer.

I remember decorating the Christmas tree and listening to Manheim Steamroller. One of our traditions was opening a new ornament the night we decorated the tree. Sometimes Mom hand-made our ornaments, other times they were store bought. She kept lists for both Adam and I so we'd know in the future who gave us particular ornaments and how old we were. It's those very same ornaments that hang on my Christmas tree now.

While we were away at school our house would change into a winter wonderland. A collection of Santa music boxes in display in the barristers, a Christmas village would appear complete with puffy angel hair snow, we'd each get our own little tree to decorate. Our collection of Christmas books would appear. My parents bought me a new The Night Before Christmas every year for my birthday; the one holiday birthday gift I'd tolerate. I now have those Santa music boxes and I pair them with my Night Before Christmas books. Memories re-gifted, in a way.

Some years I would get to arrange the nativity set. I couldn't understand why the donkey or sheep couldn't lay in the the loft. When the other, more sensible, people in my family tried to explain that a donkey or a sheep could not climb a ladder, I told them I didn't care. And the donkey, or the sheep, stayed in the loft, defying all reason.

There was magic in our holidays. Our basement functioned as a family room where we'd watch movies and play with toys. Every year, as a family, we'd watch White Christmas and when we'd come back upstairs to get ready for'd be snowing. My family, cute as we were, would sing together at Christmas eve services. The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy, Have a Super-Duper Christmas, and my favorite Do You Hear What I Hear? My mom was the night wind, I was the little lamb, my brother was the shepherd boy, and my dad, of course, was the mighty king. We were adorable.

We were always in the Christmas pageants. I was an angel one year, my brother was a prophet (Isaiah, I think). Church was a big part of our holidays. Services at our own church, at our grandparents' church, my great-uncle was a minister so some years we'd go to his church, too. There was always talk of Jesus and the manger, of Mary and Joseph, of shepherds and wise men. Jesus was never lost in the tinsel and twinkle lights. Somehow He was infused into everything. The music, the traditions, the memories.

We'd have our own little family Christmas--Dad, Mom, Adam, and me--and then a day or so before Christmas we'd pile in our mini-van and go over the river and threw the woods, and we'd be comin' round the mountain, to grandmother's house. Adam and I were the only grandchildren, and let's face it, Christmas is much more fun with little ones, so we were a teensy the holidays. Grammy, PapPap, my aunt and uncles filled the living room with gifts. Literally. Every year the tide of gifts would get nearer and nearer to the dining room, encroaching on all the furniture, threatening to overtake the Christmas tree.

Of course, all of this changed rather drastically as my growing up crashed with my parents' divorce. I remember feeling as if the spell had been broken, no matter how hard we tried to paste it all back together. Some years were good, others were not. I wouldn't say I lost my excitement entirely...I just had a feeling of loss lingering in the background. I think this was inevitable and I think we all had a similar feeling.

Eventually Christmas became about keeping the peace and pleasing other people. The magic was lost and Jesus was somehow missing from the equation. I couldn't seem to find Him in the gifts or the tree or the cookies. But I eventually started my own traditions. There are certain books I try to read every year, The Birth by Gene Edwards for one. I like to read the Christmas scriptures, especially on Christmas eve as midnight approaches. Charlie Brown Christmas has become a family favorite--I'm Sally and Adam is Charlie, we call each other every year when it's on--and when Linus recites Luke 2, I find Him. He's there. He always was. He was in the magic, and He was there when the magic was broken.

He's there this year when the magic is stirring again.

Our first year of marriage felt a bit like this year. Curtis and I decided early on to do Christmas just us. I baked so many kinds of cookies and was excited to do the shopping. I decorated my own house for the very first time. We fought about the Christmas tree (the first one we bought fell over but magically none of my precious ornaments broke). I made a huge Christmas feast. It was everything a first Christmas should be.

Then the next couple years we rushed here and there to try to squeeze it all in and work around other people's plans. The magic left again like pulling Santa's beard off.

I'm not sure when, from where, or why the Christmas magic comes. I think it's about the spirit of a person, their attitude. When all I could think about is what used to be or what couldn't be anymore...there's no chance for magic to stir. When Christmas became about agendas and rushing and people-pleasing, there's no chance for the magic to stir. When Christmas becomes about getting what you want and holding your ground, there's no chance for the magic to stir.

But when Christmas is about joy, regardless of where you are or if the Christmas tree falls over, there's a chance. When Christmas is about celebration, simplicity, and relationships, there's a chance. When Christmas is really about Jesus, when He's not stuffed into a stocking buried beneath the presents and the angel hair snow, there's a chance.

I have no issues with mixing the secular with the religious at Christmas. What's wrong with sprinkling some reindeer feed on your yard after reading the Christmas story? What's wrong with writing letters to Santa, after thanking God for all that He's given us? What's wrong with believing in Father Christmas, as long as we truly believe, save our souls believe, in Jesus Christ? I think there's supposed to be whimsy, fantasy, and the whisper of magic on every winter wind. It's only when tradition overtakes meaning, when cash registers drown out the angel chorus, when hurrying rushes the Christmas story into a one-hour Christmas eve service, that the magic of the season is really lost. It's only when we lose Jesus that we really lose Christmas.

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true, wherever you find love it feels like Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. As a self-proclaimed sucker for Christmas, I think you described what Christmas is for me as well.

    For me, the music starts this Saturday. - best wishes, Moskowitz


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