Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What I Love About Christmas

We will have a different kind of Christmas this year in that we will have no extended family. Over the time Wife and I have been married, we have gone to one of our parents’ homes and celebrated with them and, at times, our siblings, or, in more recent years, they have come to us.

My parents are now, of course, deceased. Wife’s parents, who live in Little Rock and are both 81, were here at Thanksgiving, along with their other daughter and family. They said they were staying home this Christmas, that the trip over in November was enough traveling for them for a while.

While we will miss them terribly, we are turning our attention toward our own family and what we will do. We started a tradition last year of having an international theme on Christmas Eve. Last year was Mexico and we strung up red pepper lights, played “Feliz Navidad” over and over, ad nauseum, and ate tacos, etc. It was a riot.

This year, in honor of Wife’s and my recent European trip, we are going with an Italian theme. Haven’t settled on the menu yet but I am sure we will have some type of pasta and it will be wonderful. How authentically Italian it will be remains to be seen but it will be great. Not sure about the music.

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I think I might have written about this last year, too, but it’s worth mentioning again. I just don’t get worked up over whether people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or whatever. There are some Christian organizations that are urging us to boycott stores that don’t say “Merry Christmas.” One even goes so far as to tell you how you can “rate” the various retail outlets for their attention to the word Christmas.

Please. Don’t you think those of us who are Christ followers can make better use of our time and energies? And don’t you think Jesus would rather we concentrate a little more on that “love your neighbor” stuff than trying to assure that those who choose not to follow Him acknowledge his birthday? Nobody can stop you or me from celebrating the birth of Christ, just as I can’t force anyone TO celebrate it. So please, chill out about this one.

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Have you seen this year’s hands down winner of the award for “Sure-to-make-you-cry” Christmas commercial? I’m telling you, Wife and I can’t even talk about this one, much less watch it, without tearing up.

It is presented by Publix Supermarkets and I haven’t been able to find it on YouTube so I owe it to you to try and describe it.

There’s this young man, looks mid-twenty-ish, and apparently he’s a medical resident and he’s having to work Christmas. He’s standing at the nurses’ station in the hospital talking to his mom on his cell phone and it’s obviously Christmas Eve. It cuts away to Mom and she’s just as wholesome looking as can be, standing there with the phone in her hand amidst all the activity around her – folks trimming a tree, rolling out biscuits, putting a pie in the oven -- while Christmas music plays in the background.

He tells her how he wishes he could be there and she says she does too. He has to go, he says, and tells her he loves her. You can tell Mom’s being strong for him, as moms are supposed to be.

The next scene is him standing at the foot of a hospital bed and you can hear the voice of his patient asking if he’ll be going home. He replies no, that his family will all be gathering but he won’t be there this year. He tells the unseen patient that he’ll see her tomorrow.

He is next seen walking down the street about sundown with just a hint of a slump in his shoulders, observing store windows with holiday greetings. We then see him walking down the hall of an apartment building. He stops and punches in the numbers on his phone and tells his mother that he almost forgot, but to please be sure and greet everyone for him and tell them Happy Holidays. She says she’ll be sure to do that.

He then opens the door to his apartment and what do you know, there is his mom, having just hung up the phone, and the other family members. All the while they have been getting his place ready for him to come home so they’ll celebrate Christmas together.

And folks, I’m getting choked up just typing this and my description doesn’t even do it justice.

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And that’s one of the many things I love about Christmas. I love the sense of family and togetherness that it evokes. My family could have been a case study in dysfunction and nobody knew it better than my mother, but until she died she and my dad had us, along with my brother and his family, come to their house on Christmas Day. It was not always -- nor even often -- the idyllic scene I have described from the TV commercial, but the holiday held enough significance for her that she would always make an effort to patch together a family celebration for a family that, sadly, was not often inclined to gather together.

Late Christmas Eve, after our internationally themed dinner, where there might or might not have been harmonious togetherness, Wife and I will gather our little brood and one of our grown or nearly grown children will read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke as they have done since they were little guys. This will happen after we have a debate about whose turn it is to do it (we once thought of writing it down, but arguing about who did it last year has become part of the tradition).

At 11 p.m. we will go to a local church that we always attend on Christmas Eve, where we will hear beautiful music, listen to Scripture readings and take Communion. As midnight approaches we will light candles, sing “Silent Night” and usher in Christmas. We will welcome the Baby Jesus and prepare our hearts. For a moment things will be perfect, as He is perfect.

I will hear the music, see the candles glowing and look at my beautiful family and I will hardly be able to take it in.

And these are some of the things I love about Christmas.

8 comments:

Kelly said...

I look forward to hearing how you make it an "Italian Christmas" celebration!

All my best to you and your family!

(and what, no Christmas letter this year??)

Pam said...

Yum! Your Italian theme sounds good to me! I love Italian food!

Tomorrow morning Trish and I are taking the boys to see the latest Chipmonk movie (containment for them, sanity for us!). Later in the afternoon I'll take one or both boys across the street to what is always a wonderful Christmas Eve service! They have them from 4 PM on and I usually made the earlier one.

As I said in my blog we still have believers in the guy in the red suit around here, so we try to bed the little elves down as early as possible since they tend to not sleep much past 4 in the morning on Christmas Day! NO rest for the big elves! :)

Have a Merry Christmas with your family, Bob!! I loved this entry and I teared up at the ad you mentioned!

Redlefty said...

Beautiful traditions!

And yeah, you gotta love the irony of Christians boycotting a store, where you buy stuff, during a holiday that they say isn't supposed to be about consumerism.

If the spirit of the season is love, then we're to love even the people who don't say "Merry Christmas"!

Maggie said...

Here's the link to the Publix commercial...(it really wasn't hard to find..clearly you struggle to use YouTube...) It's okay not everyone is a pro :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgymlJ4mbgg

Love you!
Merry Christmas!

Oh..P.S. I read the Christmas story last year...so it's not my turn this year....just sayin'

Bob said...

Thanks, Mags. What would I do without you? Hope Santa doesn't forget you tonight . . .

Debby said...

Publix commercial made me cry.

Merry Christmas, Bob.

Oh, and the store thing? I just sing out Merry Christmas to all of them, all the weary cashiers, all the people I meet. And almost always I get a merry Christmas back. If I get a happy holidays, it doesn't bother me a bit. If Christmas is in your heart, well, you won't be offended by the all the piddly silly stuff.

Hal Johnson said...

Heck Bob, just your description of the Publix commercial made me tear up. Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays!

Bob Barbanes said...

Well. "Doc" sure has a nice apartment! (And we know he's a doc from the stethescope around his neck...details, details!) But he's so young...hmm...an intern with such a nice apartment?? Oh wait, I see, he spends all his salary on the crash pad and none on a, ohhhhh, CAR.

An interesting ad campaign from Publix though. Just make it about food and family and only give the logo at the very end. (Publix Exec to Ad Campaign Manager: "Pssst, just try to make people forget how expensive it is to shop here!") Odd, we have Publix here in Pensacola but I never see their commercials.

And if this "surprise" were put on by *my* family instead of young Doc's, by the time I got home from work they'd wouldn't even have lit the oven yet because they'd all still be cleaning up my mess...throwing out all the old (ahem) magazines (and things), doing my dirty dishes, and let's not even talk about the dirty laundry. Oh, the socks alone could...well, never mind. *My* mom would greet me at the door looking like Joan Crawford who'd just discovered a wire hanger. In my porn collection. Under my stash of weed. It would get real ugly real fast, and I would then order them all OUT! and, as usual we'd end up having our "traditional" Christmas dinner at the Golden Corral where we an all sit at different tables and not have to talk. Good times, good times. Gotta love the holidays.

By the way, this is why NONE of my family has a key to my place. If I ever die in my sleep they can just break the door down. By then I won't care anyway.

Merry Christ...err, Buon Natale! to you and your wonderful family, Bob. I wish I was there. I love lasagna! I hope the international theme works - it sounds great! In theory.

But one of them Publix turkey's sure would taste great today...