Friday, December 24, 2010

When My Heart Finds Christmas, Part 2: A Christmas Carol

I've been rehearsing for Christmas for most of my life. 

It began in junior high school when I joined the choir, then continued in high school, college, and beyond.  The seasons were defined by rehearsal and performance.  And I loved every minute of it.  Well, maybe with the exception of the 30 minutes our church choir director decided to try to teach these non dancing Baptist feet to do some choreography on the risers. 

My feet won.

It just isn't Christmas without music.  In all those years of rehearsal and performance I've sung everything from Handel to calypso to contemporary Christian and back again. But there is one song that stands out among all the rest.  One song that touched my heart with the reality of "That Night."

That night in all of Heaven there wasn't a sound
As God and the angels watched the Earth.
For there, in a stable the Father's only Son
Chose to give Himself through human birth.
And when the cry of a baby pierced the universe
Once for all, men were shown their worth.

And the heavens exploded, with music everywhere.
And the angels spilled over heaven's edge and filled the air.
And the Father rejoiced, for He did not lose His Son,
But He gained to Himself forever those who'd come.

I can still hear the music that taught my heart the joy of that night, and reminds me every Christmas of my worth. 

And the heavens exploded, with music everywhere.
And the angels spilled over heaven's edge and filled the air.
And the Father rejoiced, for He did not lose His Son,
But He gained to Himself forever those who'd come.

When My Heart Finds Christmas, Part 1: Great Expectations

This is the home in which I celebrated 27 Christmases. The picture was taken after a rare winter snowfall 2 years after I was born. The house still stands, but the trees in the front yard have all been replaced after too many insects, hurricane winds, and lightening strikes took their toll.

Apollo snow 1949

Mom and Dad are gone, too, but their memories linger on my life like Dad's shadow on the bottom of the picture.

They taught me that Christmas was about innocence, childhood, wonder, joy, hope.

And extravagant giving.

My Mother loved Christmas more than any other time of year. She enjoyed the decorating, the baking, and the planning of magnificent surprises. For Mother, Christmas was the magical season when all wishes came true, and she and Dad did their best, on a limited budget, to make that happen for their two daughters.

If the tree was less than perfect, and in those days they were, Dad would take a drill and some extra branches and fill in what nature left out. We always had a magnificent tree. Mother would direct the decoration from the couch.

First, Dad carefully strung the lights around the tree, then my sister and I hung the ornaments evenly and symmetrically. Finally, Dad would lift one of us toward the top to place the star. We took turns for this honor, with names duly recorded on the box that safely held that star the other 11 months of the year.

Christmas Eve we would read the story from Luke, and then hop in bed for a restless, sleepless night. After many unsuccessful trips to Mom and Dad's bedroom (has Santa come yet?), we were filled with delight when they finally gave up the idea of any sleep themselves, turned on the lights and stood back in their own delight as two little girls stampeded into the living room to see what Santa had brought. At 4:00am in the morning!

Our stockings were simple--two of Dad's clean socks. Somehow we never noticed they bulged with an assortment of whole nuts out of the seasonal nut bowl from which they were hung. There was ribbon candy too, and an occasional tangerine. But that was just "window dressing." Our real attention was on the tree, both the "Santa" toys and the beautifully wrapped bounty beyond.

xmas guitar copy

I think it was the expectation of what surprise awaited us rather than what we actually received that caused those sleepless Christmas Eves because, looking back now, the one thing I remember most is the one thing I habitually asked for but never found, a horse. A real horse. Like Trigger or Silver. I knew it would never happen, but that didn't keep me from hoping. After all, Christmas was about magic and wonder and dreams coming true.

I feel as though I am just now beginning to understand the deeper magic of Christmas. I find myself lost in the wonder of God's dream coming true in a Bethlehem manger. It is there I find anew the innocence, wonder, joy, hope.

And extravagant giving.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..."