Today it hit me: It's almost Thanksgiving. That led to the exciting realization that it's almost Advent. (Really, doing the Thanksgiving and Advent I bulletins was a clue.) And that of course, made me realize that it's getting closer to Christmas.
I love Christmas.
For a number of years, when we were living away from our families, Christmas lost its sparkle. It was stressful. It was a hassle. We had to pack up our kids and the presents, suffer hours in nearly stopped Chicago traffic, arrive at my mom's late at night. We would spend a couple of days racing from relative to relative, never getting to see enough of anyone and seemingly never able to please everyone. I'm not sure how many years we went without going to a good Christmas Eve service. We would return to Chicagoland tired and cranky.
When we moved to Fort Wayne, I was determined to recapture Christmas, both for me and for our kids. The Christmases of my childhood and teen years sparkled in my memory, and I wanted to reclaim that joy. So I searched back through the memories and realized that through the years the family gatherings happened, gifts were given and received, and things changed as things do. But there was one anchor: church on Christmas Eve, mostly at my grandparents' church in Decatur. It is the standout element of my Christmas memories over the years. And this was what had gone missing.
Not that we had left the true celebration of Christmas behind. We hadn't. We attended Advent services and did our Advent Calendar. We always tried to go to church somewhere on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The kids knew WHY we were celebrating. And yet, it was not the centerpiece. It was squeezed in.
Not anymore. As much as I loved Christmas before, I love it even more now. We made the decision to build our Christmas plans around the services at church. Whatever our extended families have going on, we are going to be at Redeemer on Christmas Eve early so that the acolytes and choir members in the family can get ready for the service. Then we will have beautiful music, and candles, and poinsettias, and a fantastic sermon and the Holy Communion in our beautiful church surrounded by our church family. And, in spite of the fact that we are seldom asleep before 2:00 a.m., we are up for the Christmas service the next morning. As a bonus, we can continue the Christ-mass for the entire twelve days, with services each morning. And that is our Christmas. Everything else is extra.
And it is back. I love Christmas again.
Now that that's out of my system, I'll enjoy Thanksgiving and Advent, and the anticipation of the coming Feast.