Last year was the first year I really felt settled into a Christmas routine. It took a long time to give up the traditions of my youth and my parents/siblings and realize that Paul is always going to be gone all afternoon/night Christmas Eve. This was hard when the kids were babies because they were not good company. I wanted to catch up with family. I wanted to eat hors deorves and drink cocktails. I wanted a nice big dinner. I wanted to spend a long lazy time opening presents. I wanted to get dressed up fancy and sit solemnly in church singing hyms and reflecting on what it means that God became this tiny little baby. Unlikely.
The low was spending--literally--five minutes in church one year (by myself with the kids of course because Paul is leading worship, and of course there is no nursery the one service of the year when you really really need a nursery) before one kid pooped in their diaper and the other two were screaming. I dragged everybody out, buckled them in the van and we drove through McDonalds. Fish fillet was not what I had in mind. I put the kids to bed and sat and watched tv by myself. I was pretty sad.
But, now I have come to peace with our Christmas routine. I have stopped comparing it to the Christmas of my youth because it’s simply apples and oranges..and this is the only sort of Christmas my kids know. And they love it. And I love it. It gets better every year because they are older and now are such good company. We’ve built our own Christmas.
Today we will hang out and clean up in anticipation of our guests who arrive tomorrow. Jon, Hope & the boys are coming from Iowa for a Scrabble showdown and will arrive after lunch tomorrow. Tom & Terry are driving in from Indiana to give some Oma and Opa love to the grandkids and will get in late tomorrow night. We can't start the festivities until the Pastors Dunbar (all three of them) have completed their Christmas worship duties. Ah, the extended clergy family.
This evening the kids and I will bake a birthday cake for Jesus; go to 7:30 Christmas Eve worship (which they can now participate in and enjoy and there should be no pooping involved); and decorate the cake (left to cool during worship) while we wait for Paul to get home. We have services at 3:00, 5:00 and 7:30, so he's usually gone from 2:00 until 9:00/:30.
(Now that we live in the parsonage, he can sometimes run home for a few minutes between the 5 and 7:30.) We'll start opening presents when he's home for good.
Tomorrow morning we'll haul the kids out of bed to go caroling at the hospital at 8:00am. I thought this was crazy the first year we were here. I thought no one would show up that early on Christmas morning, but we usually have 30-50 people come and it has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions. How awful it would be to be sick and alone in the hospital on Christmas morning. It's a very moving thing to walk the halls singing hymns proclaiming glad tidings. The hospital serves us continental breakfast in the cafeteria afterwards and then we all head to church for 10 am worship. The Christmas morning service is also one of my favorites of the year. It's usually a pretty small, intimate gathering. I love it.
We'll cross the street back home and eat egg casserole and birthday cake for lunch. Then we‘ll finish off the gifts and wait for the Iowa Dunbars to arrive. And then we’ll catch up with family. And then we’ll eat hors deorves (cream cheese/crab dip) and drink cocktails (snowflake martinis!). And then we’ll have a nice big dinner (rib roast and twice baked potatoes!). And then, the next night, when everyone is here, we’ll have a LONG time opening presents.
It will be a Merry Christmas.
I hope you have one too.