The Work of Christmas


As Christmas Eve waited on deck this week, I found myself apologizing to my husband. Apologizing that our Christmas hadn’t been more special, more meaningful, more full of sweet, reflective moments. He just cradled my face, kissed me, reassured me that it had been just fine, and, more importantly, my pastor/husband reminded me that Christmas had not even begun yet. And you know what? He was right. Christmas hadn’t begun yet and neither had its work. The work of Christmas starts with Christmas Day. It is literally the first day of Christmas and its work continues on from there.

What does that mean, though: the work of Christmas? Jesus came to live, see the unseen, love the unloved, give His life for all, and offer a place to everyone. His work was love, and that work began with His birth. So how do we do the work of Christmas? We love. How do we love? We love by encouraging. We love by defending. We love by not giving up. We love by not giving in. We love by respecting. We love by swallowing our opinions and listening to the drop and opening of others’ hearts.

We do the work of Christmas by loving, by forgiving, by standing in the gap, by hearing, by listening, by speaking up when necessary. Christmas began yesterday, the old year is on its way towards the door, and we have an entire new one coming in which to do Christmas’s work. Will you join me in carrying Christmas throughout the whole of the year? No matter what you celebrate, what you call it, will you help me do the work of love this year? Will you help me set the world on fire with it in 2019? I could use your help, dear friend. Thank you.

Advertisements

A Winter’s See You Soon


Author’s Note: Back in April, I visited Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time. As my companion and I were heading down the walkway to catch the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley from Hogsmeade, I had the distinct feeling and vision of two students, arm in arm, making their way from Hogwarts Castle to Hogsmeade to catch the train home for the holidays. I even wrote it up but I do not think I ever posted it. Perhaps I am wrong but, either way, this is a good thing. I had originally envisioned and written this as a summer holiday leave-taking, BUT in honor of the Christmas holidays of which we are in the midst, I changed it slightly. I hope you enjoy, dear Readers. 

Also, standard disclaimers: All things Harry Potter, Hogwarts, etc., belong to Ms. J.K. Rowling. They are her creative babies and I thank her for lending us all the use of them to enjoy. The image belongs to Pottermore.com

= = =

Arm in arm, they walked down the path to Hogsmeade, much slower than the gaggles of fellow students streaming out of Hogwarts and into the gently-swirling snow. The Christmas excitement was palpable, but, for those two students, it was bittersweet.

“So I can still come down to London for New Year’s Eve?” she asked hopefully.

“Definitely, and don’t forget: I’m taking you to see Celestina on Twelfth Night, right before we come back,” he reminded her tenderly.

She beamed at that. “I still canna believe you wrangled tickets to it! It’ll be the best!” she gushed, at which her Slytherin companion tapped the cold-pinked tip of her nose, causing her cheeks to flush an even deeper shade of the rosy color.

The gold of her cozy scarf lent a softer glow to the emerald and silver sheen of his, and he found himself drawing her closer. She responded in kind, her grip a bit tighter on him.

“We will have the whole train ride, don’t worry,” he reassured her, to which she smiled, completely ignoring the looks some of Slytherin girls gave as they passed them.

“I hate leaving,” she then murmured softly, “Even if only for a little bit.”

“Me, too,” he agreed, gazing at her with those piercing blue eyes, once again marveling at the warmth of the Hufflepuff’s brown ones.

The peaked, snow-capped roofs of Hogsmeade appeared in the closing distance and they could see the hot steam of the Hogwarts Express frothing up in the cold December air, waiting to take the students back to Kings Cross and their families. Professor—excuse me, Headmistress—McGonagall had waved those heading home off from the gates of the castle, warmly wishing them a Happy Christmas and good winter holiday. Now these two drew closer and closer to goodbye, for now, at least.

She drew physically closer to him, her arm around his waist and his over her shoulders, a kiss dropped sweetly on her temple beneath her grey knit hat. Friends rushed by the sedately-strolling pair, calling out teasings and happy Christmases and see-you-soons, to which they replied with smiles and waves. They would be there in plenty of time, and she knew a friend would save a compartment for them; sixth years had a code, after all.

The train ride from Hogsmeade to Kings Cross felt all too short, filled with soft moments, laughter and reminisces and plans made with friends for the new year, last hours of togetherness shared. When they reached snowy Kings Cross and all were about to part ways—him staying in London and her for the platform back up north—he reached out and drew her to him before leaving their compartment. This kiss was deep but gentle, almost chaste and yet still blistering.

“To tide us over,” he murmured, squeezing his lovely Hufflegirl close.

“Just a week,” she agreed, sniffling back tears and clinging to the back of the hoodie he’d changed into.

Donning their coats, they left the train hand in hand. Their families waited in opposite directions and so fingertips lingered and parted, and he watched the lovely coral of her flutter beneath the warm, plummy coat as she moved to greet her parents, a look over her shoulder given just for him.

All around were shouts and greetings and well-mets and holiday greetings; one couldn’t help but smile, for whatever reason. Christmas was here.

Pottermore-poa8

Letting Go of “Lots” for Christmas


Throughout life, but especially right now in the Holiday Season, I am finding more and more each year, that I am having to let go. Not of people necessarily (though that does happen) but definitely let go. I am having to let go of plans and expectations, of details and striving.

I really wanted this year to be different, simpler. Doesn’t that sound odd, though? Striving for simplicity? I tried to lower the number of gifts bought (losing battle, usually, but maybe I’ll try something different next year). I have tried to embrace the quiet moments (difficult with a rambunctious five-year-old and the never-ending work of teaching). I tried to get everything done early (yeah…was still ordering gifts as recently as Saturday morning). I feel like I’m constantly striving for a goal but missing it somehow and then having to let go of what I thought were pretty good plans. Even worse, I’m having to let go of expectations that I somehow managed to place upon myself without even realizing the weight that was settling on my shoulders. You, too? Well, welcome to the club. More and more I am feeling like Cindy Lu Who, wondering what happened to my joy in Christmas, while, all the while, I’m rushing around like mad, the same as every other Who in Whoville. After all, there are still Christmas programs to attend and participate in, pitch-ins to cook for, papers to grade, and presents to wrap.

Every year, I say the same thing and I feel like I fail at that one thing: a simpler, more meaningful Christmas. I feel as though I lose myself in the attempt to make sure that it’s special for my dear ones–which is, of course, important–and I forget to enjoy it myself. Then I blink and…Christmas is gone.  The season is over and the softness of the lights becomes glaring, a reminder that it’s slipped through my fingers again.

Is this you, too, by any chance? Well, then. Trust me, dear one, you are in excellent company. The rush of the world is hard to resist and sometimes we just end up striving anyway and feeling like we never get much of anywhere. But there is good news! Christmas hasn’t passed us by yet. Like Scrooge, we still have a chance. We still have a chance for a glass of wine/hot chocolate/egg nog/cider before the silent glow of the Christmas tree. We have a chance to find those little moments of peace and quiet. We still have a chance to let go of some “lots” for a bit more of “best”.

9vo9c-ahpbp76e50z-full-image_gallerybackground-en-us-1509940294740-_ri_sx940_

 

Taking the “Should” Out of Christmas.


The Christmas Season is in full swing and I’m already feeling the stress. My daughter is now old enough and aware enough to realize that she wants things, wants specific things, and so, this year, we have been presented with a Christmas list. Two things on that very specific list, however, have proven difficult to obtain: a doll that looks like her Daddy (they just don’t make male dolls with facial hair; tsk tsk, representation, people!) and a talking Pikachu. The latter is this year’s hottest toy, which she saw on a commercial for ten seconds while at Pizza Hut for lunch (curse my love for their salad bar) and is now obsessed with. That day, she spent the rest of the afternoon telling anyone who would listen that her grandpa is going to turn into Santa Clause (honestly, Grandpa is the foremost of the two figures; Santa looks like Grandpa and NOT the other way around) and bring her a Pikachu “that talks out of his tummy”. I have looked and shopped and searched and that Pikachu can be found nowhere for a decent price, “decent” being less than forty dollars at this point. It’s out of stock in all the local toy stores (and Toys R Us apparently won’t ship it from a warehouse, only fulfill the order from a stocked store) and the third-party sellers on Amazon have to be making a mint off these things, the way they have priced them up. Profiteering, I tell you! So, yeah, no pressure there. I am also already freaking out because I still have people on my list for whom I have bought zero gifts as of yet. My Christmas cards haven’t been sent out because I haven’t picked up the prints of our family portraits yet. Yes, I know it’s only the 6th but, in my mind, I’m already way, way behind. I should have gotten most of this done already.

It’s admittedly very, very, VERY hard to stay mindful and focused on the season, never mind relaxed, when you are bombarded on all sides by the STUFF of Christmas.  The doing, the decorating (don’t have those up yet either), the cooking, the socializing, the performing…it’s so much, isn’t it? There have been too many Christmases that I have regretted getting caught up in the stuff and missing the beauty of Christmas, the quiet moments, the mindfulness and remembrances because of all the stuff that I think I should be concentrating on. Wait, there’s that word again. Should. There are so many “shoulds” in Christmas, aren’t there? Should there be so many “shoulds?” I should cook. I should get those cards done. I should have gotten all my gifts already. I should help with all the events. I should get the decorations up before people come over. I should, I should, I should, I should!

“Should” wears me out. “Should” makes me want Christmas to be over already. I want to get rid of “should”. I want “I will” this Christmas. That is what I want.

Yes, I will read you a story.

Yes, I will watch a movie with you.

Yes, I will have another cup of coffee.

Yes, I will listen to you.

Yes, I will take a walk.

Yes, I will sing a song.

Yes, I will sit alone in the quiet for a bit.

Yes, I will pray with you.

Yes, I will laugh.

Yes, I will help you.

Yes, I will let good be good enough.

I want this to be an “I will” Christmas. I will slow down. I will do my best and not push for perfection. I will be happy with smaller decorations, fewer gifts, and quieter moments.

I could blame the rush on being back to work full-time this year and not having as many free hours in the day for all the “stuff”. No, I won’t do that. Instead, I can just say, “I will do what I can”. I will  do what I can to make this a lovely holiday for my family and for myself. I will give myself permission for quiet moments, for time alone, to do things that I enjoy as well as what I think others might enjoy as well.

Let this be a Christmas of “I will”. Let’s give ourselves a break, take a breath of cool, clean air, and gift ourselves with an “I will”.

Sweet Floating


The other day, as I covered my bed in freshly laundered linens, I paused for a finishing touch. I took some air freshener and sprayed my pillow and side of the bed lightly, the apple-cinnamon aroma making me long for bedtime to come, when I could bury my nose into my pillow and allow that sweet scent to soothe away the day’s care and busyness and lull me to sleep.

There are few scents in the world more calming, lovely, and soul-soothing to me than apples and cinnamon (except for Glade’s creamy custard/apple cinnamon 2-in-1 candle; that reminds me of my favorite My Little Pony when I was a little girl, smells just like her). The scent calls to mind all the time of the year from autumn harvest through Christmas. It warms me in the midst of the earth being in its winter bones outside. It calls me to comfort and peace and rest. I will re-scent my pillow and blanket later on so I really can’t wait to go to bed tonight.

 

6237f551dc261051a38049a8559e2195

Peaceful Sleep by Chujian Ou

 

 

 

Hymnal Thoughts


Before now, I have been hesitant to state which is my favorite Christmas hymn, and honestly, that is because I couldn’t decide. But now I have an answer. Definitely have an answer.

As I drove around through the cold January air, the rain falling in sheets and the sky a slate grey blanket above me, my car was full of warmth. Yes, I was listening to Christmas music in January, plainly breaking the family “rule” about no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. (When I am alone in my car and no Doc McStuffins soundtrack is being requested, I shall listen to what feeds my soul, thank you very much!) This song came on and stayed on repeat for most of the rest of my errand trip. I couldn’t get enough of hearing it, of singing it, of feeling it.

Without a doubt, “The First Noel” is my favorite Christmas hymn. There is no song that elicits that sense of thrumming anticipation and elation that the season embodies like it. No song that fills my soul to the brim and overflowing with that peaceful expectation, that serene joy that is all that Christmas means to me. It feels like song reaches into every part of my soul, flooding it with warmth and the desire to see light and love and hope everywhere, to see with my heart rather than just my eyes.

I want to keep that song, keep its core, its joy, anticipation, and watchful spirit alive in my life all the year through, not just Christmas. I want it to echo in my heart and in my life and spread out to others in the way I live each and every day.

PS. Thank you to my music teachers all through school for teaching me how to find and carry a part in a choral arrangement! I cannot tell you the joy I had finding that I could still sing along well enough to enjoy vocalizing along to this wonderful group of vocalists in their beautiful rendition.