So in the last edition of “Things I Like”, I rambled on about a series of material possessions I enjoy, suitable for gift giving. To me. If you were my brother or sister-in-law and needed to figure out what you could get me for Christmas…just as a for-instance.
But I am taken with the idea of sharing, from time to time, some things that make me happy. Sometimes it will be actual physical stuff and sometimes things less tangible. Many of you who know me for real know that I have a sort of complicated relationship with Christmas. I often get really turned-off by all the commercialism that runs rampant this time of year. Did you know that Americans (yeah, just us) spend more that $450 BILLION EACH YEAR on Christmas? If that doesn’t turn your stomach, then I don’t think I want to know you. I am all for a little candlelight, some twinkling from a Christmas tree, and fresh-baked goodies, but the presents just sort of get to me. Don’t get me wrong…it can be fun finding just the right thing for someone, but aren’t birthdays good for that? Like many Americans, we are paring way down this year and frankly, I’d like to continue the trend. Because in my house we are very fortunate, and we really want for nothing. (p.s. If you click here, you can be directed to a super-awesome website called “Advent Conspiracy”, which is full of wonderful information and ideas about turning this commercially-driven time of year into something of more personal substance. It’s Christian-based, but for all my non-Christian peeps there’s plenty of transferable stuff.)
So when it comes to Christmas, here are the things that really make the season special for me:
1. A lovely book, How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts.
This novel (yes, it’s fiction) tells the Christmas story from many perspectives: Melchior, the old astronomer from the Far East who sees the star and begins the journey of a lifetime; Mary, young and engaged and afraid but holy and centered beyond her years; Elizabeth, who in her advanced age births the forebearer to Jesus; Gaspar, the warrior Wise man who starts out looking for more to aquire but finds instead peace and friendship; Balthazar, the slave who was freed and re-enslaved, whose incredible bravery and intelligence will see him to freedom once more. All these little tertiary characters from the Bible stories are fleshed-out as well. It’s extremely compelling and I read it almost every year as I wait for Christmas to come. Even though I have my doubts about many of the details in the Christmas Story itself, this book reminds me of what I do hold true: Jesus was born a little human baby, just like you and me. I don’t know why that gets me right in the ‘ol ticker every time I think about it, but it does, especially now that I’m a mother myself. Anyway…read the book, if you can find it. It might be out-of-print; it’s old.
2. Lessons and Carols at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. This is, quite simply, the lovely Anglican tradition of interlacing the scripture lessons telling the complete Christmas story with music that supports and expands upon those readings. I never knew anything about it until we stumbled through the door of an Episcopal church and found our spiritual home there. My first Lessons & Carols service was purely spectator. It struck me as warm and beautiful in every way. Since then I have been an eager participant each year, singing with our smallish-but-mighty choir the unfolding Incarnate Mystery. I just love it, and if you’d like to listen to this year’s edition (from last night!) click here for a link to the MP3. (Shameless plug: I had a solo on a gorgeous Polish piece, and you can find it at the 48:35 mark. Joe also did a reading at the 26:30 mark, and he’s always such a stellar reader. Yay, Joe!) After the service there’s always a wonderful festival feast, which we do not currently get to attend because we’ve got three picky eaters who don’t ever stop moving to contend with, but that’s a story for another day. The whole evening is always such a lovely start to the Christmas week, with friends and music and prayer and food. Doesn’t get much better than that!
3. Family & Friends. I love the cards, the visits, the baking, the laughter, the general merriment with all my favorite people. Even those of you who are so far away somehow feel closer this time of year as I send warm thoughts and energy in each envelope I seal. Hope you feel that love come bursting out as you open your holiday card from us! Which you’ll probably get in 2010!
4. White Christmas.
How is it that I haven’t watched this movie yet this year? Oh, yeah, I just had windows installed and I work for a church (can you say 5 services in one week?! Wowza!) This old gem stars two of my all-time musical idols: Bing Crosby and the incomparable Rosemary Clooney. Not to mention it has Danny Kaye in it. And oodles of sentimentality. The last time I watched this was with my grandpa and my dad in Grandpierre’s little apartment in Kenosha, and I just loved that we shared that together. It adds a new dimension of specialness to my favorite movie of all time. Oh, and I also like an actual White Christmas. Especially when the white stuff covers up all the sawdust and mud that our construction project just churned out!
Enough for now. I love lots of things. I hope you are surrounded by things and people you love this week, too. Happy Holidays from me and all my Ys!
(Just for good measure. I’m sorry, it’s a problem!)