Saturday, December 26, 2015

| m e r r y + b r i g h t. |


* * * M E R R Y   C H R I S T M A S ! * * *

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 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this great thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”        

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When I go back and re-read the chapters of my childhood, I always linger over the ones themed Christmas. My parents were diligent in providing the six of us with memories far more precious than any material gift they could have given, and this year lacked any exceptions.

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I come upstairs still shivering from the shower and my dad is standing in the kitchen helping my mom commence the preparations of the festal dinner. The air is friendly with the aroma of coffee and my mom’s cinnamon candle, and a brief distance away my two youngest siblings are chattering about the chocolate my mom tucked inside their stockings. We don’t always enjoy the blessing (or in my dad’s practical mind, the curse) of the classic white Christmas, but today the rocky red clay is powered with a liberal dusting and the pines look like someone emptied a bag of powdered sugar over their needles.

In the family room, my little sister and brother squeal with characteristic delight as they discover what Mom chose and Dad funded, concerning the gift factor. My mom in her red dress and silver earrings--the latter a gift from our dad--joyfully distributes the paper-wrapped packages, and my dad relaxes in his chair with his massive red Farmall coffee cup observing the chaos, attempting to look annoyed at the general clamor and the crumpled scraps of wrapping paper on the rug. On occasion one of the kids, yelling out their thanks to Mom, will receive a glance from him and a reminder. “Hey, did you forget who paid for that stuff?”

And then he always smiles, and we know he’s merely amused, not annoyed.

A handful of hours later, my four brothers are demanding when the food preparations will be complete; some the more subtle members of our clan are pilfering samples from the covered casserole dishes on the counter. My mom turns on the radio and scrolls through the stations, and abruptly the strains of “Messiah” intersect the uproar. It’s my dad’s favorite, and he grabs my hand and my waist and initiates an impromptu dance. Who says you can’t dance to the Hallelujah chorus, anyway?


The dinner conversation consists of assorted subjects; my brothers formulating mock plans to capture the fabled Claus and hold him for ransom; my little sister sympathizing for the dogs huddled in ill-disguised envy at our feet; all of us pouring simultaneous accolade on my dad for succeeding again at his legendary stuffing. I paw the camera from its closet corner and attempt to capture the moments in photographs, and my younger brothers seize the opportunity to demonstrate their food in their mouths and contort their faces into vaguely horrific resemblances of the Grinch.

Crazy. Just like all of us, so it’s okay. We’re all family here, literally.

Last night my parents gathered us in the family room to sing the Christmas songs they taught us when we were little, and my dad read the accounts of the Lord’s physical entrance into the world from all of the Gospels that recorded it. We searched the minor prophetic books for predictions of Christ’s birth, and I am reminded that my knowledge of prophecy has waxed rusty. My younger siblings are providing answers at a swifter pace than I am. The revolutions of existence are turning faster than the wheels of my spiritual life, and I realize I need to achieve more moments like this, mining the Scriptures with God.



On social media this morning, I noticed an update from a friend reminding what the reason for the season is. Clichéd, but truth nonetheless. Why the gifts, the festivities, the memories being made? Not for pleasure or tradition. Who provided us with a reason to commemorate today, now that I consider it?

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When I was a young teenager, I was surrounded with Christians who repelled the mere mention of Christmas as if it was a gangrenous plague. The Christmas that I was fourteen I refused to appreciate any of my parents’ attempts to create a memorable 25th of December for us. I remember being with several of my friends that December and one of them suggesting that we explore a nearby Christmas craft fair. Another of the girls vehemently repulsed the proposition, and upon being questioned regarding her motives, dealt all of us that ambiguous “duhhhh” expression. “They’re playing Christmas music in there, okay?”
My response, which should have been an emphatic “Good grief!”, was prompt guilt for actually daring to appreciate Christmas music. I didn’t listen to another Christmas song of my own volition for the remainder of the season. Whenever my mom played her favorite harp and flute recordings of those songs I used to love, I coerced myself into ignoring the music.

For anyone shaking their heads and pointing their fingers at such pathetic fear of man, try being fourteen again, but in my adult life I will never apologize to anyone for loving Christmas and believing in its magic again. I don’t celebrate the day for the version of it that modern culture has authored. The world has stolen enough from  believers, but it need not rob us of glorifying God through our observance of December 25th. True, it is hardly likely that the angels made their celestial appearance on December 25th; Christ’s literal birthday could have been any date of the year.

Nonetheless, I'm thankful that my parents instilled within my heart an affection for celebrating December 25th as a day to commemorate Christ’s birth and create memories with my people. I want my own kids to have that, and I will never permit anyone to tell them what I was told as a fourteen-year-old, that Christmas is a sin to be spurned and repulsed. It's a gift, a day to remember the Gift of God that was offered for our redemption.

Christ provided us with a reason to celebrate Himself on December 25th, and on every other day of the year--the greatest present that has ever and will ever be given.

And there’s another gift on my mind, too. My parents provided me with pages of memories to return to, and I’m not going to blush for speaking the truth--some of my favorites are the Christmas ones. 

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