Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Reflections

I feel compelled to write this Christmas Eve. As Max yells down to me to check the Norad Tracker again to find Santa's exact location, I'm feeling the exhaustion I'm sure overwhelmed my mother (times 6) for many years. I generally love the Christmas season. I love the music, the decorations, the lights. I try to buy gifts in a thoughtful manner and don't buy just to buy. This year, Max's big gift is a trip to the mountains of Virginia with his cousins for snowtubing and indoor waterparking. Life is about experiences, not things. Of course, he's still holding out for a laptop. Not.

My mother is sick this year. Sick enough to scare the shit out of all of us, including her. She seems to be doing better but the last few days were a blur for her. She keeps talking about things that happened on Monday and referring to them as "yesterday". Send good thoughts her way. Pray if you are so inclined.

Speaking of prayer, Max and I went to church tonight at the Presbyterian Church in Kennett where he goes for Bible School and the Art Stroll program. Our plan had been to go to the Episcopal Church we've attended since he was born. Each year they do a Children's service and invite the kids to the front of the church and tell a story. Max always loved this but last year Father Dave, who had christened Max when he was 2, passed away in his sleep 9 days before Christmas. I was devastated to lose Father Dave, although I barely knew him. I really credit him with bringing me back to the church as an adult.

While I have never struggled with my faith, I have struggled with how to demonstrate it throughout my life. I consider myself an estranged Catholic and stumbled upon Father Dave and the Church of the Advent after Max was born. The Episcopal Church had all of the familiar rituals of the Catholic Church minus the judgmental vibe. I really did feel as if I had come home in a way. I now realize that Father Dave had personified that warm, safe place to fall. While I did not attend church regularly, I attended much more often after meeting Dave than I had in 20 years.

I deeply regret not contacting Father Dave after my brother passed away. I grieved in such a profound way and often felt like he was the only person who may be able to give me comfort. I was still in the deep stages of my grief when Dave passed away. We did attend Christmas service 9 days later and smiled watching the female deacon struggle to control the unruly crowd of kids Dave was able to mesmerize for all those years. I have not been back since.

So, while we planned to do our regular Christmas eve thing and attend the family service at Church of the Advent, instead we went to the Presbyterian Church. You see, while I am generally uncomfortable with the contemporary style service, Max thrives in it. He understands it, he pays attention and he enjoys it. He seems to know everyone in the whole church and I have never been pressured to join. The pastor's wife heads up the children's ministry and spotted Max immediately upon arrival. She came over and sat with us for a few minutes and made me wonder why I don't spend more time in this church.

The whole service were Christmas carols (real ones) which made me realize that kids don't know real carols anymore. When we were little you were allowed to sing songs like "Away in a Manager" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" at school. At the end of the service, everyone lit candles and sang Silent Night. Once Max's candle was lit, he turned to me and said "Now what do we do?" While I wanted to say "We burn the place down dumbass.", I refrained and said "We sing."   

So while this is just a general rant, it's one that reminds me that Christmas is really about family, friends and experiences. Hold those dear to you close. And if you are reading this, Merry Christmas my friend.