Beth worked until a little after 6pm last night. Since our church meets in a school, they don't have a Christmas Eve/Morning service. The ones I could find around here were either before 6pm last night or after 8:30 (which would be late for the boys' bedtime). I ended up walking with the boys a few blocks over to a church in our neighborhood for their 5pm candlelight service. It was nice; not quite the same when you're not in church with family (whether blood or your regular church family). It was also harder having both the boys myself, but they did really well. After walking back home and having a bite to eat, Beth came home. Once she had fed herself, we had, what we like to call, a "pajama adventure." We carried Anders and Nils out to the car in their pajamas and drove around a looked at lights. A favorite spot was the city park where we go to use the splash pad in the summer. They had lights on all their oak trees. We also found a house with a yard-full. Nils called it "Candyland" because of the candy cane and peppermint lollypops that lined the sidewalks (probably because he's been asking to play the Candyland board game recently as well). Really, just the simple lighted trees and eaves were enough to please the boys. (Good reminders that the Light has come into the world.)
This morning, after a breakfast of Swedish pancakes and sausage, we gathered around to listen to the Christmas story. The boys each had one main present under the tree (plus a few things that were too big for their stockings) and a stocking full of small toys and games. We had a lovely lunch together (after playing with the new Thomas the Train pieces and putting together the Lego set). I think this afternoon may hold some sledding for us.
I was reminded last night as we sang carols at the church we were at, how Christmas isn't just about celebrating the birth of Jesus by gathering with family and opening presents, but by making sure that Jesus is born in our hearts. We don't have to have things in order for that to happen: the stable was a messy, smelly place; the manger was a rough and scratchy for lying in. But God is ready to give the greatest gift in His Son if we are ready to receive Him.