Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas snapshots 2017


Four services in 24 hours: a marathon, and we attended every one. Solidarity with pastor-dad, Praise to the Lord, Joy to the World, and so forth.  I gather an amalgam of Christmas moments, shared in no particular order:


Everyone knows where their shoes are this year. It’s a miracle, made possible in part by my willingness to overlook the fact that Peter’s are slightly too big. If his brother doesn’t care, I don’t care; we’ll call it a win.


Snow falls, and the cold rush as we leave makes us all excited and invigorated. They squeal; we put our faces up to receive its cold shower. I quote a song we know, “Isn’t it love? This rain that falls down on the sinners and the saints!” but the snow is grainy and cold; it doesn’t feel as pretty as it looks.  Lorraine laughs as I sputter and wipe the “love” off my cold face. The walk to church is quick and cold.


Lorraine looks gorgeous in her gold dress; she takes my breath away. I’ve heard some moms feel like their teenage daughters have stolen their beauty, but I'm not one because I never had that kind of beauty in the first place. Hers is a beauty all her own and I just smile as I watch it shine.  She is wearing my high heels- the ones I am not graceful enough to wear.  She walks into church, a tall, elegant, a lovely young woman, but her heel slips, ankle twists, and she barely catches herself. Her smile says, “I meant to do that” and we both giggle like crazy in the front pew. “Did you see that banana peel someone left there mom? How rude!”  Her light heart is gorgeous, too.


Sitting next to me, Marcus keeps forgetting to listen and follow along. I nudge him, point to the hymnal, direct my spoken responses to his ears so as to verbally pull him along with me into the story God is writing in us. He steals my pen and decorates his thumbs. “Mom, I’m ready for the next thumb war, now, look they have faces!” as if I’ll be proud. I’m not, but I’m not mad either.


Sitting by Aggie is at Christmas is like sitting by Elf. After communion she has so much to say; I hide in kneeling prayer as long as I can, but I can’t hide forever; so she loud-whispers to me about the gifts she will give and her band schedule and straightening her hair and then she gasps “oooh this hymn is my favorite!” Her song is strong and sincere, and she is focused, until it ends and her stories begin again. Finally I say, “Can you please stop taking for a bit honey?” She does, but the organ plays a tune she knows and she bobs her head and taps her foot, and I am amazed that she can make even silent movement so loud and joyful.


Pictures by the Christmas tree: Peter farts and everyone makes a huge deal about it. And Seth doesn’t want to be in the picture; I use my mom voice and when that doesn’t work I threaten to get dad involved.  “We can do this now or we can do this later but you’re gonna do this.” He does begrudgingly, and as soon as I say “now, a silly one!” he runs. Later, I follow him with the camera and take action shots to make up for it.


We have a crazy idea this year: Let’s let (make?) the kids stay up until late church: 11pm. Dad is sure they can do it. Of course, this same Dad also takes a nap a 8:30. He has to preach, after all.  Home Alone and Christmas snacks sustain them for a time.  I drink tea and record moments.  Come, Emmanuel.



It’s hard to stay awake. Behold! God has sent buckets of snow from heaven! Eldon and I go for a night walk; we make the first tracks, running tracks, laughing at the way the wind has made just one side of our faces cold. I promise to snuggle him later, and I do: we keep each other warm for all of the late service. The tree, the candlelight, the beauty of the late service is overpowering. But Peter is asleep before the opening hymn. Seth and Marcus stare sleepily ahead. Aggie joins the quempas carol and shines bright.  Lorraine plays handbells, and experiences wonderful moments of holy goosebumps. Heart-overflowing tears are my Christmas gift; I blink long and grateful.



Christmas morning:
Daddy wakes first and makes coffee: the best in the world, oh how he cares for me!  A few gifts, excitement, arguing, and breakfast. And the snow is still falling, just like grace: it’s time for another service.


Another service: I am grumpy about the clutter closing in at home, but I don’t want to be; annoyed the the wiggly boy next to me distracts me from the sermon, but pastor tells of  a welcoming God, welcoming even me. Pete lifts my arm to snuggle under-- my arm rebels in annoyance-- then gives in and tries to be welcoming like my God. My imitation is weak, but the boy rests his head on my lap and finds rest there.  Big sister’s lap is welcoming to another little boy; the sight softens my heart further.


Pete knows how to follow along in the bulletin now; he argues with me when dad forgets to tell everyone to stand. I whisper, “He’s the pastor, he can overrule what’s in the bulletin.”  He finds the songs in the hymnal for us and sings along; we both sing the wrong verse and he giggles. He makes sure I’m folding my hands when it’s time to pray.  He who has been managed by so many in his life is now managing me.


Seth has Official Business to do: he runs the sound board and does well. He’s looking quite handsome in his gray suit.  I hemmed it for him, as his dad suggested-- I almost didn’t though. I recall Josh’s input on the right way to hem, Seth’s anxiety that I would do it wrong, so many suggestions from those two chiefs, and me finally snapping, “Do you two want to do it yourselves?”  And I felt like my own mom in that moment; today it makes me laugh.



And the whole thing is covered in grace, all the memories and the moments, just like the junk in our backyard is covered with pretty white snow. I ponder these things in my heart.

Oh Come, Emmanuel, we sing, and we live His coming.  His songs on our lips when we wake, His Words in our ears on our way, His peace in our hearts as we sleep.  His grace that binds us up again after tempers are lost, that covers over the greed and the distraction of the season; His Son that dwells with us here, now. HIs light that shines and gathers us to Him along with all people. Come, Lord Jesus.



Merry Christmas.


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