This is a meeting of heaven and earth, part 1

And it’s over for another year. Well, not quite over, because the tree is still up and the decorations are scattered around the house, but there aren’t any more presents to be exchanged, no more church services for a while. It’s been several days since I wrote about anything, so this isn’t a comprehensive list, but the things I would like to remember about this year’s holiday.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
I miss you. I wish we could sit down and talk about things. I guess I will keep wishing.
Love, Victoria

Victoria is Mike’s niece, and Grandma and Grandpa are his parents. Victoria has not seen them in over four years. She is eight. She wrote that letter last year. Mike’s sister showed it to me and it broke my heart. As hurt as I am, as Mike is, as his sister is, it breaks my heart to think about a little girl who can’t understand why the adults can’t put things aside so she can see her grandparents. It breaks my heart to think that they have hardly met their five-year-old grandson, that he wouldn’t even be able to write a letter like that.

Other than that, we had a nice time visiting with Mike’s sister and her family. We played Candyland (Winnie the Pooh version) and watched The Polar Express and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When I got home, I pulled our copy of The Polar Express (the book) off the shelf, and, flipping through it, I confirmed my belief that I had never read it before. Want to know why I had never read The Polar Express? It’s pretty shameful. I remember that people were always trying to get me to read it, but what I wanted to do was read books that had a lot of words, not books that had really pretty pictures. (I am still this way. Mike says this makes me a snob.) So, after we got home Friday night, I read The Polar Express to Mike. I have now read it. (If Kelly made it through that last paragraph without having a heart attack, well, I will be very surprised.)

“This picture here is of Nancy, but it represents all six children, because you all looked pretty much the same.”

My mom’s family gets together at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve, and, traditionally, someone has shared something about the year or the holiday before the great present extravaganza takes place. It used to be the responsibility of the kids, but somehow that has changed over the years. I was Mary in a nativity scene, I helped write a “play” that featured the Ghost of Christmas Presents (who had to be told the real meaning of Christmas), and I helped write a poem about Christmas Eve at Grandma’s. This year, though, Grandma got out her “Special Memories” book and shared things from it with us. It was embarassment for all! My poem was even in there. hehe. My favorite part, though, was when Grandma said the above quote. Nancy is the oldest child in the family, and there are four brothers and one sister (my mom). When Grandma said that she had a picture of Nancy as a stand-in for all six of her children (in the book. She does have pictures of the kids elsewhere), my mom tilted her head to the side in a, “What the heck are you talking about, woman?” kind of way. It was exactly what I would have done, and that’s exactly why I knew to look at her at that very moment to see her response. For the record, there were pictures of all eleven grandchildren. I guess we don’t look so much alike.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

After leaving Grandma’s house, we went to church for our Christmas Eve service, which is usually a very important part of the Christmas season for me. This year was no exception, but it was very different than other years. It was busier and less peaceful for me, somehow, and the singing of Silent Night by candlelight was nice, but not as nice as in years past. The meditation, though, made up for all of that.

When the young man from our congregation died in Iraq, Mike and I were both very sad. After we’d had a few minutes to digest the news, Mike turned to me and said, “I’ve never been in a small church when someone died. What’s going to happen? I mean, we’ll all be so sad. Are they going to cancel Christmas?” Of course, he knew that Christmas couldn’t be cancelled, but I appreciated the heart of his question: How much can life go on? I think, in a Christian community, since we know that this life is not the end, it can be easier in some ways for us to allow life to go on as it should. The rhythm of the seasons (and therefore the church calendar) makes sense, because we know the One who is ordering the seasons. But things still seemed a little muted this year. The sermon on Christmas Eve talked about grief and loss a little bit, and in the middle of it I realized I’d been going about this Christmas thing all wrong. I’ve been kind of sad all month long, and I’ve been trying really hard to be Christmasy, and it was a big failure, mostly. During the sermon I realized that I had completely missed the point. I don’t have to get all happy and in the Christmas spirit in order to be able to celebrate Christmas. In fact, that’s why Jesus came, not to fix my problems, but to help me in the midst of them.

After all, there’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas!

After the service, we had fondue with two other couples from our church. That was a real blessing for us, because Christmas Eve used to be when Mike and I would exchange our presents, and we didn’t exchange presents this year, so it would have been a little bit “how do we fill the time?” Also, since we’re not in touch with Mike’s parents, we have learned to make our family where we can, and I appreciated the “family” that we’ve been given at church.

This is a meeting of heaven and earth. For the child in the manger is also a spark from the great beacon behind those weak lanterns in the sky.

And so Mike and I headed home to finish The Christmas Mystery. The above quote is from the book, which I love more every time we read it. Each time, it strikes me in a new way. This year, I found the chapters on Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child to be very moving. I love it when the Godly company arrives in Bethlehem and each of the members goes to perform his or her role: the inkeeper, the angels, the shepherds, Quirinius, Augustus . . . they each have a part to play so that all the prophecies can be fulfilled.

We also read a few pages from one of my most hoped-for Christmas presents: The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle. I had pretty much resigned myself that I was not going to get a copy, as the book is now out of print, but my aunt searched for a used one and gave it to me, much to my glee. We read about the Annunciation and the Nativity, and I am looking forward to reading it more over the next few weeks.

Mike said I was going to have to split this up, and it looks like he was right. So, further Christmas thoughts to come: what it’s like to see lots of people at church in their pajamas on Christmas morning, what it’s like to have a marshmallow gun fight with my family, and who is to blame for my lack of Gilmore Girls DVD-age (hint: this is exactly why I always order from BN.com instead of Amazon).

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