On Monday I took down our Christmas tree and decorations, which always seems to mark the official end of Christmas holidays and the beginning of the new year. Here are a few highlights of what was for us a quiet but enjoyable Christmas.
Walking to church on Christmas Eve.
Bethel had a Christmas Eve service at 5:00 p.m. so we had an early supper and walked to church, pulling Jonathan in the wagon since there was so little snow. It was lovely to look at the Christmas lights and decorations on people's homes and to imagine what everyone was doing to prepare for the special day. Our church service this year focused on letters: a woman who is at home convalescing from a long illness sent a letter about hope; a military man read a letter he had sent to his family about 20 years ago when he was serving in Africa; and another woman read a letter she had written to those who are "too busy". Then the pastor asked us to imagine what we would write in a letter to God and what God is saying to us by sending Jesus.
Watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve.
This has become a Christmas Eve tradition for Rich and me: we put the kids to bed and watch our "It's a Wonderful Life" dvd (taking a few breaks here and there to have snacks and open our gifts to each other). I have probably watched this movie ten times, and I still find it very meaningful every time. It's definitely somewhat corny and dated in certain ways, yet its message is timeless. I think many of us can identify with George Bailey's struggle as he sees life passing him by, watches others realizing the dreams he'd hoped to achieve, and wonders if his life has really meant anything significant. When he gets the opportunity to see what might have happened to his family, his friends, and his town if he had never existed, and realizes how many people have been touched by his life, everything changes for him: he can celebrate what he has and let go of his regret and bitterness. My favourite moment is right at the end when his brother Harry arrives in the middle of the party and raises a toast: "To my big brother George -- the richest man in town."
He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. [Identify that quotation, you keeners]
Jonathan's love for -- ok, addiction to -- jigsaw puzzles was fed by a whole host of "enablers" this Christmas. (You know who you are.) I believe the official count was fourteen separate puzzles received.
I didn't actually get any books for Christmas -- at least not books with words in them. Rich got me two beautiful journals which I suppose I will have to fill with words of my own. But I spent the holidays re-reading the Harry Potter series, since I haven't seen movie #6 and wanted to refamiliarize myself with the plots before eventually renting the movie. This is a truly amazing series: funny and exciting, increasingly suspenseful and complicated, and full of plot twists that are all satisfyingly untangled at the end.
One of the best parts of Christmas, for me, is the music: singing carols at church, listening to Christmas CD's at home, etc. Rich and I attended a church Christmas dinner where the soloist sang "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I love these words from that carol:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Actually I suppose that's what the Harry Potter series symbolizes for me too: that good will ultimately defeat evil, that love will conquer hate, that life will conquer death. (Interestingly, the final book quotes 2 Bible passages: "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" and "the last enemy to be destroyed is death.") Those words and themes symbolize hope for the new year.