... let's start out with a story. Thanks to Donna Yazbek for sending me this on facebook...
The "W" in Christmas
Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peacefulexperience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.
Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by it's bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snow caps upon their heads. Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down -totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: "CHRISTWAS LOVE" And, I believe, He still is.
How AWESOME is that? As much fun as the Santa myth is, the legend of the birth of Jesus is simply amazing. Regardless of theological interpretation, regardless if you believe in the immaculate conception or of a virgin birth, regardless if you believe Jesus of Nazareth is/was the messiah, the story his birth simply sets the tone for a memoir of power through humility and service not seen often on this planet. That man. Oh, that man. So clear in who he was. So clear in who he was to be. So clear in what he had to do. Jesus set the bar, my friends. Courage? Top Jesus. Faith? Top Jesus. Love? Top Jesus. Compassion? Top Jesus. Humility? Top Jesus. Servitude? Top Jesus. Leadership? Top Jesus. Born in a barn, travels the land as a homeless man, arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey, dies in a loin cloth amid thieves and murderers. Befriends women, minorities, tax men, prostitutes, the poor. Challenges the Sanhedrin, the temple, his own people, the very validity of the power of Rome, and dies for it all.
What are we REALLY celebrating tonight and tomorrow? Not a mythical fat man's ability to travel the globe on flying reindeer in one night. Like I said, it's cute, but frankly largely exploited. What would Black Friday be without Jesus? We're not celebrating Santa's Birthday, we're celebrating Jesus'. In the movie, "Brazil," there is a great moment when in a crowded shopping mall, a small group of protesters walks by with a sign that reads, "CONSUMERS FOR CHRIST." Man, that said it ALL.
We're not waiting with baited breath for Santa, we're waiting with baited breath to pause and thank God in Heaven for the lowly birth of a tiny baby, that in a short lifetime, radically changed the world for 2,000 years after. Regardless of whether Jesus is or isn't 'the only son of God,' (which in all honesty just doesn't make any sense to me and smacks of traditional mythology) his life was so extraordinary that we celebrate its beginning 2,000 years later. You haven't heard me use Jesus' name hardly EVER before tonight, right? It's not my style, but tonight, he deserves some recognition! Hey, I don't even know historically whether Jesus was born on December 25, but this is the day we have chosen to mark the occasion, so be it. And so it is...
I really wasn't planning on sharing any of this tonight, but apparently God was. LOL. I had no intention of writing any of the above while I was working on editing pics from today. Funny how God works.
Today can be broken into three parts: 1) morning snow fun 2) afternoon/prep & evening feast, and 3) Polar Express.
1) Jake and Harrison's snow man seemed lonely, so Ali wanted to build a snow musketeer by his side. Never mind that the snow musketeer is facing the opposite direction. So, Ang and I (with help from Ali) set out to see if we could pull it off. Behold our triumph in the 1st slide show! Then, we went for a hike to a little fort nearby with the dogs. The weather was cloudy and about 32 degrees, but DRY so it felt quite pleasant.
2) There was a lot of prep (just like in most houses) work for tonight's feast during the day. Ang helped the kids make Christmas cookies as seen in slide show #2. The table was set, and the assembly line of food was underway. After the polar express, we all reunited and had a magical feast with fresh homemade raviolis and meatballs and an awesome salad to cool it all off at the end. We were all so stuffed from the meal that I don't know how much dessert was even attempted!
3) The Polar Express was really cute. Tracy's family and Ang, Nanny, Ali, and I all got seats together on the train. Some hot chocolate, a red and green marshmellow treat, a Santa hat, a mug, and a reindeer bell personally hand delivered by Santa himself made for a fun ride, including the sing along we did all the way back from the north Pole. Then, Ali got to meet Santa and spend a little more quality time with him just once more before he descends upon our house in just a short while from now.
Twas the night before Christmas
and all trough the house
not a creature was stirring,
just this grieving blogger.
It hits hard, and lately, it hits often.
The silence of Bella is deafening to me
I work hard at staying present and grateful
and yet that profound sadness emanates my being.
I am sad and grateful simultaneously.
I can be, because it is, without me commanding it so
I do my best, because done is better than perfect
And all the while, my ROCK, my breath, Angelique,
keeps the anchor connected, and we pull each other up.
So tomorrow we watch and cheer and laugh
as children's dreams either come true or not.
We love either way, and miss the heck outta Bella the whole time.
This is how we grieve. This is how we live.
God night and Merry Christmas.