In the Shadows of Christmas Eve

Shadows marched back and forth in the hall . . .

Such a dark room; I wasn’t asleep, and I wasn’t alone.

Were the others also open-eyed and alert, faking slumber?

Who were the others? Memory fails me. All of the California family on my mother’s side had gathered for Christmas on the ranch. Or, as I called it when a child, “Grandma and Grandpa’s farm.” On that way-back-when gathering, all the west-coast siblings were together. For me, they were the best aunts and uncles in the world. My cousins were also there. Our collective numbers challenged the limits of our grandparents’ house.

Who was jammed into the room with me?

Was it just us guys? Did the girl cousins have their own room or were we kids divided by age or matched by happenstance?

I can’t remember.

But who cares about roommates when it’s Christmas Eve? What I do recall is that I was a “loser:” no bed for me! Instead, in my jammies, and with a full tummy after one of Grandma’s endless meals, I was delegated to the floor. Continue reading →

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Fake Christmas!

According to my wife’s family tales, her younger brother once ruined the lives of many children. Likely around the year-end holidays, he announced to his classmates that Santa didn’t exist.

What!

No Santa Claus?

These exploits took place in elementary school. My wife’s father was a Moravian pastor. Both parents, while mentioning Santa’s peculiar role in the gift-giving traditions, were honest from the get-go: Christmas was about Jesus’ birth. Olde St. Nick had little influence on their Christmas anticipation and celebration.

And yet what about other kids?

Many believed in Santa. With his elf minions and gallant reindeer, the North Pole’s #1 citizen was idolized. He was forever preparing for a late December globe-trotting trip to slip gifts beneath a well-lighted tree! Christmas notes were written: Santa Claus, North Pole. Soon, millions of cookies appeared on millions of plates, ready to welcome the hearty, hungry fellow!

Come, sweet Santa! Hurry, generous Santa!

Then along came little Dan. (Yeah, let’s use my brother-in-law’s actual name.) Continue reading →

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This Fragile Season

John 1:1-14CHRISTMAS – for December 25, 2016

“In the beginning was the word . . .” (John 1:1)

I will call him John, if only to honor the Gospel writer that annually beckons me at the most (and for too many, the least) wonderful time of the year.

In the beginning was the Word

                  and the word was with God

                  and the Word was God . . .

For a few years at a church I once served, John sang Ava Maria at the Christmas Eve service. Sometimes, his name was listed in the worship bulletin; sometimes he unexpectedly appeared and we’d let him sing. Of course we would!

It was a United Methodist congregation, and yet there was John, crooning the most Roman Catholic of songs about a maiden and her child:

Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden’s prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild;
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish’d, outcast and reviled –
Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

John may have been a drug addict. He occasionally worshipped in the non-Ava Maria seasons, present for a few Sundays in a row, perhaps singing in the choir, and then—for months—disappearing. He randomly worked, with a mix of rumors that his family was wealthy and sent him money. The then thirty-something John drifted here and there. I’d worry about him. I’d forget about him. I have wondered, especially during Decembers, what happened to John? I recollect the last time I saw him was the last Christmas Eve I did at that small rural church. Continue reading →

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