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merry and bright

December 26, 2010

Two days, two families: four Santas, three trees, two turkeys, one pageant. Rush pie-making, shipping and grocery shopping (four stores all out of fresh green beans. Thank goodness for the pinch hitters, brussels sprouts and asparagus. Bad and Ugly made appearances – one overturned pie, two missed naps, a pushy meat peddler selling steaks out of the back of an unmarked van – but really, it was nearly all Good. UPS, the real Rudolph, came. My niece unwrapped an origami book and paper and was soon frustrated and asking for help; for the first time in my life, I read the instructions and followed the arrows and dotted lines to produce recognizable shapes. My son was happily bewildered by all of the presents – he’d asked for one – and not envious of anyone else’s.

My husband is a preacher’s son. The current congregation is a sweet country church, where by mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve Jack was begging to go. His cousins appeared as Mary, an angel and a shepherd. Jack didn’t have a part in the pageant, which was for the best as he attended the service in a shiny new bike helmet he hadn’t taken off all afternoon. He gave it up only after commandeering an unclaimed prop to herald good news throughout the service.

Halfway through, one of the Wise Men forgot a line and burst into tears. I was corralling our guest trumpeter, imagining the length of the to-wrap list, dreading the long ride home and the midnight baking.

Then we turned the lights out, picked up our candles and passed the flame around the room. It was at first a scramble, and behind me my brother-in-law whispered loudly about the dry hay in the manger and WJack set aside his wild trumpeting and held a candle carefully; my late and last-minute list of things to get done flickered and came back into focus as things we’re able to give and do. We sang Silent Night, and the place really did fill with a heavenly peace.

I always love Christmas lights. Glowing from windows or twinkling around doorways after dark, they make the world look more welcoming. At home this time of year, I unplug the tree lights last, and my many messes fall into shadow (the way all the inflatable Nascar and biker Santas do pleasantly after dark). Two nights ago, the candles were the best of the Christmas lights, in that room crowded with a little community celebrating an ancient story of surprise, doubt, hope and new life. All things we experience or observe – and should probably celebrate more – every day.

Of course, if you prefer the less subtle and sacred lights, or Santa as a reindeer hunter in a tree stand is more your thing, or you just want to laugh, there are always alternatives:

(I really didn’t know how they would top last year’s display.)

Hope your holidays, however you celebrate them, have been illuminating.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2010 7:44 pm

    Even though I’m not sure about Heaven, I love the feeling of heavenly peace. Candle services have always been my favorite, though I haven’t been to one in a really long time. I love the pure delight and innocence on sweet Jack’s face in all of these pictures … The gun-wielding Santa, not so much, but I did get a good laugh out of it!

    Happy Boxing Day, Leslie!

    • December 26, 2010 11:01 pm

      The gun shop has a knack for un- Christmas-y holiday lights. This year, that Santa was actually aiming at a reindeer out front! Unbelievable. I was glad Jack never spotted it from the car. Heavenly peace is certainly something I can appreciate. And so far it’s holding- even though we gave Jack a drum set yesterday!

  2. December 26, 2010 11:42 pm

    Happy Holidays Leslie! I love the pic of Jack with his trumpet prop. Sounds like the holidays were illuminating for you.

  3. December 27, 2010 12:52 am

    Like you, I find the glow of a Christmas light so comforting. On Christmas Eve night I had to make a return trip to my parents for my forgotten camera, and I loved driving back on my own, peering into everyone’s living rooms to see the lights aglow. It’s like a beacon of warmth and invitation.

    Happy Holidays my friend! May you find some quiet and rest in this time.

  4. December 27, 2010 1:34 pm

    I’m glad things turned out so wonderfully you on Christmas. We are at my grandma’s right now in Jacksonville and so far so good. Although, Hayden did ask me last night what Santa was going to bring him tomorrow (which is now today – today is the 27th). I told him that Christmas was over and Santa was done with his duties for a long time. I think he is handling it well. His birthday is in a month and then he will get more toys – awesome.

    Was Jack digging the drums? I bet they have been fun for the whole family! Talk with you soon and see you Sunday (the 2nd).

    – Melissa

  5. December 27, 2010 7:49 pm

    That sounds like a pretty amazing Christmas pageant, impromptu trumpet playing, crying Wise Man, and all.

    We didn’t travel this year and so I didn’t attend Mass at my childhood church for the first time in many years. I always love the moment after Communion when the choir director turns out the overhead lights and the congregation sings “Silent Night” by candlelight. You’re right: there is something magical and illuminating about Christmas light.

  6. December 28, 2010 3:28 pm

    What a beautiful post. I love the photos of your little man untangling the lights and holding the Christmas Eve candle best.

  7. December 28, 2010 10:32 pm

    This post is full of so many wonderful things. A perfect tribute to this holiday.

  8. December 29, 2010 3:48 am

    What adorable pictures! It sounds like a busy, happy holiday. I hope the new year brings all of you all good things!

  9. December 31, 2010 10:22 pm

    Where is my Christmas pageant? Yours sounds like the right medicine for the Christmas season. I also love Christmas lights. I sure will miss them come January.

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