Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 2

Keeping Christ in Christmas?
My family’s Christmas celebration began on Christmas Eve or the day before. After completing December’s obligatory church and school Christmas programs (where we usually sang “Keep Christ in Christmas”) and parties, with their required decorations, treats, and gifts, we loaded up the car for the 4-hour drive to Grandma’s house. We’d usually arrive late at night, have a quick meal, and go to bed while the adults stayed up to finish wrapping presents. We knew some families who opened presents on Christmas Eve, but we thought that was cheating -- what was left for Christmas Day?

Christmas morning began with a bowl of cereal (if our parents insisted) followed by Dad reading from Luke 2. Then Grandpa would start passing out the presents. He had a gruff voice and a deep, loud laugh, and we kids were all a little afraid of him. But he enjoyed playing Santa Claus, and Christmas was the day of the year that we felt closest to him. He was as excited about the gifts as we were. The family gathering grew each year. The last time I was there for Christmas, there were 40-50 people. It took over 3 hours just to open all those gifts.

Then we would run off to play with our new toys while Grandma and the aunts worked on Christmas dinner. Grandma had put the turkey in the oven before we got up, but lunch seemed very late to kids who had been running on Christmas candy all morning. Christmas Dinner was very much like Thanksgiving dinner: there were so many kinds of good food, you could hardly eat even a small sample of everything. We ate until it hurt.

Then we drove to our other grandparents’ house and opened more presents. This grandma did not allow anyone else but Grandpa in the kitchen while she was cooking, and he was only allowed to cut the meat, mash the potatoes, and carry things to the dining room. By late afternoon, the house was feeling crowded, but where could you go? I usually ended up watching TV with my uncles.

At suppertime we had another big meal followed by pie and ice cream. With apple, cherry, mincemeat, pumpkin, and sometimes more flavors, how do you choose? We usually returned to the other grandparents’ house just as everyone was getting up for seconds on desert. We got to bed late and uncomfortably full. We usually spent the next few days running around visiting any relatives we had missed.

My parents took us to church faithfully three times a week the rest of the year, but at Christmas, it was usually crowded out by family events. They were careful to explain that Santa Claus didn’t really bring the presents, but Jesus seemed like such a small part of the day itself. One of my favorite memories was the Christmas my dad and I got up early and drove to a 6 am Christmas service in a snowstorm. But many churches were canceling Christmas services because, like us many people were choosing to spend the day with family and missing church. Some churches even cancelled their Christmas Eve services, saying Christmas was a family time, and they didn’t want to interfere. I thought something was wrong, but since we didn’t go, what could I do?

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