What a beautiful time this has been for me and for my family! Right before Christmas I was on the edge of despair, desperate for God to change me. I cried out to him, and he answered. Things I have been clinging to like a deflated life preserver I have learned to let go of, and God is showing me how to swim. These next two years while my husband is in school will still be hard, but I feel I have renewed strength and clearer insights into what I need to be doing. Right before Christmas I made a decision about getting rid of some things that I felt were hindering me. I feel that God has to keep reminding me to live the life he has given me, and to get rid of all the things that don't coincide with that life. I can't tell you what was in all those bags of things I gave away or sold because I myself do not know. I don't miss any of it. I personally can't think of any better way to celebrate Christmas than to purge things from my life that don't belong there anymore.
Christmas Eve my family gathered at Grandma's house for hors d'oeuvres. I brought deviled eggs and the Happy Birthday Jesus cake, more aptly entitled "The Leaning Tower of Jesus." After the meal we assembled in the living room to open gifts and, more importantly, partake in an important family tradition.
When I was about 7 years old my Uncle Bruce created a script based on the Gospel accounts of Mark and Luke for the family to read on Christmas Eve. Each script had a person's name and a sticker in their particular color and their part of the script was printed in that color. My grandma still has the same scripts over 20 years later. This tradition takes on special poignancy now because my Uncle Bruce has left the family and presumably, the faith, and my cousin Justin has passed away. This year his mother read his part.
We all read our parts with great gusto, particularly my brother Jeremy, who I felt did the scripture justice with his eloquent presentation. At the end our scripts call for us to say in unison "Merry Christmas!" My brother Ian then shouted "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!" That started us up and spontaneously, we all started to sing "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing!" Not half-heartedly, or jokingly, but with sincerity and energy and JOY. And we sang it all the way through until the end of the first verse and chorus. It was the kind of moment that cannot be planned, and will always be remembered.
This year we decided not to do a gift exchange with the extended family and instead we brought a grab bag of gag gifts from ArchieMcphee.com that brought the house down. It felt really good not to lug home a bunch of extra things that we didn't want or need, and it was worth the $20 spent on the grab bag to watch everyone laugh.
That night Hugh and I got a baby sitter just so we could go to the 11 pm communion service. It was the perfect ending to the day and the perfect way to celebrate Christ and the abundant life he has for us. The rest of the week was a blur of gifts and family, all wonderful, but I am glad we had the chance to sit in the candlelight and reflect, and commit to the year ahead.
To me, it seems no accident that the day we celebrate the birth of Christ should fall so near to New Years Day. They seem to go hand in hand. I felt my spirit renewed by remembering his birth, and each New Year brings such promise. He has given me new life, and he just doesn't stop. He keeps making all things new.