Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas in Review

Thirteen Best Moments of the Christmas Holiday

1.... At the Christmas Eve service I really heard for the first time some of the words to the hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". I came home and did a little research on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the circumstances surrounding his writing of this song. It was written in the midst of the American Civil War; his nation was suffering a near-mortal tear in its very fabric. His wife had died just a year before when her dressing gown caught fire and Longfellow had received serious burns trying to extinguish the fire. His son was struggling to recover from a war wound. Life looked very bleak for Longfellow when he wrote this hymn. He wrote about how we speak of "Peace on Earth" and yet wars persist, people continue to struggle with private agonies, and real peace seems unattainable. Then he writes:

And in despair I bowed my head

"There is no peace on earth," I said,

"For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

It struck me in a new way that this is truly what Christmas is - a recognition that peace is not the result of positive life circumstances but a state of mind brought about by acknowleging the fact that God is in control and truly want us to experience peace and joy.

2. Our daughter invited us to join her family for a Christmas train ride. We had a great 2-hour train ride from Blue Ridge, GA to Copper Hill, TN on the Santa train. We sang Christmas song, saw some gorgeous scenery, and got a visit from Santa and Mrs. Clause.

3.... My three in-town grandchildren and their parents invited us to their house on Christmas morning to see them find what Santa had left them. We were in their living room when they ran in filled with excitement and found just what they were hoping for. Love those faces!

4…. My three out-of-town grandchildren ran into our house about noon on Christmas day, after a two-hour drive to get here, excited to arrive and anxious to tell us what Santa had brought. They managed to convey that their excitement wasn't all about their gifts. They let us believe that much of it was the anticipation of spending time with us and their cousins.

5.... When my youngest grandchild, E, took his turn wearing the Santa hat and passing out gifts at our extended family gathering (my Mother, 7 sibs, 7 sibs-in-law, all their children, children-in-law and grandchildren -- a total of over 50!) E. seriously put on the symbolic hat and in his firm 5-year-old authoritarin voice called out the name printed on the package, looked around for acknowledgment, and presented the gift to the recipient.

6-8.... Actually this is several moments - but each time one of the young ones in our large family group opened his/her present, he/she spontaneously expressed appreciation and got up to hug the giver. It is good to see affirmation that the social graces are still being learned

9-11.... Again, this is several moments, but the instances of intergenerational communication and enjoyment that I witnessed. For example: Late in the day of our large family gathering, most of the older adults were gathered in one room talking, and the young folks (including several twenty-somethings, several teenagers, and a large number of elementary-school-age children). I happened to walk past the doorway where the kids were and saw that my twenty-three-year-old niece, who was home from New York where she is pursuing an acting career, was conducting an impromtu acting class with the children. Children ages 5-15 were enthusiatically improvising motor noises and motions in the creation of some kind of a machine. I did not enter or ask questions because I didn't want to intrude

12.... When I realized that my Mother had all 7 of her children, all their spouses except one, and all but 7 of her grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered at her home at one time. This is the first time that all 6 of my siblings and I have been together with Mother in quite some time.

13.... When our inner circle of 12 returned to our house after the extended family gathering. My DH, our daugher and son-in-law, our son and daughter-in-law, and our six grandchildren wound up the Christmas celebration talking about our favorite parts and then playing some of the games the children had received. Adults, teenagers, and children together, we played a hilarious game of "Mad Gab" and several other games.

What fun!

What memories!

What love!

What a Christmas!

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