Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our Christmas

One of the wonderful things about following the church year was the discovery of Christmastide -- celebrating Christmas for twelve days. It is so lovely to keep playing Christmas music, to keep the tree lit, to not have to squash the preparation of days and weeks into a single day.

The Second Day of Christmas also coincides with a more sobering remembrance: Saint Stephen's Day. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, and his story can be read in the New Testament, in the sixth and seventh chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen's Feast Day also is mentioned in the carol "Good King Wenceslas":

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even

On Christmas Eve we had Keith's side of the family over to our home; his brother was working, but his brother's wife Renee and their five kids plus Renee's parents and sister from Michigan came, along with Keith's dad and older sister Karen. It was a cozy group of 18 people including us, and we all contributed to a finger-food type meal with ham and turkey sandwiches on small rolls, a vegetable platter, chips and dips, crackers and spreads, deviled eggs, plus hot finger foods like egg rolls, barbecue-sauced chicken wings, ham and cheese on puff pastry, and mushroom tarts. For dessert we put out one of Keith's amazing pumpkin pies plus my gingerbread (which doubled as Jesus' birthday cake); Keith's toffee; vanilla wafers, lemon-chocolate cookies, and truffles from Trader Joe's, plus a huge platter of homebaked cookies and other goodies that Renee brought; Karen also brought some chocolates. Before dessert we lit three candles (representing the Trinity) on the cake of gingerbread and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, and we also lit the four Advent candles plus the white Christ candle in our Advent wreath while I read from Luke 2. We kept it short since the little ones were getting restless.

I was sad to not attend church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The other church in Alpine that I used to slip down to on Christmas Eve moved their Christmas Eve service to 7:30, and our house was still stuffed with family and guests at that hour, so I would have to do a 70-mile round trip into El Cajon arrend a Christmas Eve service, and I was too tired to stay safely awake on the drive. I stuffed the kids' stockings and took them upstairs with me and then crashed into bed, exhausted after all the deep cleaning of the past days.

The kids allowed Keith and I sleep until nine on Christmas morning, and with a roaring fire and the scent of breakfast cooking, the kids opened their overstuffed stockings. Then we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of eggs, diced potatoes, bacon, and lemon bread, and afterwards the kids lit the four colored candles and the white Christ candle of our Advent wreath. I prayed and read Scripture from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, including the beautiful Christmas Collect:

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
I also read the Epistle Lesson (from Hebrews 1) and the Gospel (from St. John 1), which are some of the most beautiful words in the Scriptures:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

I also read the words to a few carols, including "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
After our Christmas worship, we gathered in front of the fire with Bing Crosby crooning "Adeste Fidelis" in the background and opened gifts from one another. The biggest gift was for the boys from Elizabeth: a (refurbished) X-Box 360 with a hard drive and two games. Our big gifts to the kids were modest this year, a $20 maximum each. J received a Nerf blaster, B & T more X-Box 360 games (Lego Star Wars: Complete Saga and Star Wars: Force Unleashed, respectively), and E several New Moon items: CD of the film score (really different from the soundtrack), the movie book, and a calendar that hasn't arrived yet. The boys bought her Bones Season 1, and gave each other Bakugan. Keith gave me some Ugg-style slipper/boots which are desperately needed. Elizabeth gave me a Brian Setzer Christmas CD and Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger, and the boys gave me my Barnes and Noble desk diary, the only thing that keeps me somewhat organized. :)

After presents we dressed and drove twenty minutes up the mountain to my parents' little cabin where my parents, my brother Tom and his two kids, my mom's brother Rich and her sister Vicki and Vicki's husband George were gathered.  Patches of snow remained on the ground, not enough for sledding but enough for some serious snowball fights. We enjoyed a lovely ham and prime rib dinner and opened presents just as the Charger game started. Keith and I were very happy with a 7 quart crock pot as our 5 qt has simply become too small with our boys' appetites, plus a set of Christmas dinner plates, something I've always wanted. Mom and Dad loved the photo calendar I made online for them with photos of the kids from my computer; we also gave them one of E's senior portraits. We finished with apple and pumpkin pies baked by Keith and Keith's famous toffee as well.

On our way home we listened to carols on the classical radio station and did our traditional drive around our small town looking at all the lovely Christmas light displays in front yards and on houses. Then we came home, stoked up the fire and allowed the boys to play with their toys while the rest of us relaxed and watched "The Librarian" trilogy on television while enjoying the lit tree and the roaring fire. So it was a lovely, lovely Christmas for us, and I pray it was for you and yours as well. A blessed Christmastide to you all!

1 comment:

sarah said...

It sounds like a wonderful day!


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