Monday, November 23, 2009


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.


Mom said...

I'm so glad you've made the choice to protect this wonderful time for your family. I remember so well the Christmas Eve you arrived at our house for our family get-together, running a bit late because it had been hard to leave the previous gathering. Nerves were on edge and you were soon in tears. I was so sad this was what so much of Christmas had become for you. We all felt the stress, but I think you had the most difficult schedule. I promised myself that our preferences, our gatherings, whatever we hoped to plan had to be 'way down on the list of priorities. I hope I never contribute to that kind of stress in your life, or any of our families' lives, again - that's so counter to the point of Christmas. All those years when you were growing up and the season just became goofy with trying to fit it all in, it's interesting that I remember the times of peace and joy when it would finally feel like Christmas always happened in church. I'm happy you're in a spot where you can enjoy so much of the richness of the season with your precious family. Nothing could please me more.

Melanie T said...

Thanks for this. I was starting to feel the pressure of music preparations for church services, cooking, gift buying, planning family visits, and decorating. AND trying to get some school work done on top of all of it. Thanks for the reminder of what is consistent and important in our family celebrations as well.


Jane said...

One of the things that I was trying to fit in, but couldn't make come out right, was how my mom's unselfishness in the years directly following my parents' divorce made it possible for me to continue to enjoy that part of Christmas with my dad's family. But from her comment you all can see how wonderful she is. :)

Susan said...

I came to the comment page to say "amen" to your post. Then I saw your mom's comment and wanted to say, "Wow, what an awesome mom!!" and then I see you beat me to it, and I'm left with only a double "amen" to what you've said. :-)

Elephantschild said...

I think I love your Mom, Jane!

Your post really resonates with me. Two years ago, we decided that we would not do any traveling until Dec. 26th. And this year, we will not be traveling at all.

I want to see family. I will really miss seeing them this year. But we needed a year where we don't pack up the car, drive five hours and spend 6 days living out of suitcases.

Cate said...

What a nice post to read on a day when I've already been mentally panicking about Christmas.