Our extended family Christmas celebrations were done last weekend (though I still miss the extended-extended celebrations with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, but there is only so much traveling we can fit into a season). Our own Christmas observations began on Christmas Eve with worship at church. Carols, the Christmas story, children doing their songs, candles glowing: peacefulness and joy.
We went from there to a friend's house along with several other families from church. We had potluck hors d'ouevres and sugary confections and played games together until late into the evening. Two others from church took me to my first midnight Christmas mass at the Basillica downtown. It was my first time there; it was a special night to experience it. The lights of candles, the smells of censers, the sounds from the choirs: it was a memorable way to ring in Christmas.
The morning came late for us. I guess without anticipation of Santa's arrival the boys didn't feel the need to wake up super early. Honestly, I was the first one up at 8. I got the batter made for Swedish pancakes, put dishes away, washed some others, and got a few other things done before anyone else came downstairs.
Baby Jesus found His place in the manger in our nativity scene. We opened the presents we gave each other and spent the rest of the day enjoying them and time with each other. The boys built Lego sets and spun their Beyblades. We all played a game of The Settlers of Catan together, and then we did a little ping pong on the kitchen table.
Tonight we held the 1st Sunday of Christmas worship at church with three other local churches. They joined us for supper, games, carols, and worship. While us introverts may have a hard time interacting with new people, joining together was a reminder that the scope of Christmas goes beyond our family or congregation. It's huge: throughout time and place.
We still have one more week of Christmas. Our tree is still up, and while the radio stations have stopped, we're still playing Christmas carols. Our nativity scene's magi are a little closer, but they still haven't arrived. And I'm glad to see Christmas lights still on in our neighborhood. We even discovered that the Lowry Bridge over the Mississippi River had changed it's colors to red and green (it was still blue when we drove across it on Christmas Eve).
One of the songs the choir sang at the Basillica on Christmas Eve was from the area of the Congo. The translation from the Kituba dialect is:
Noel! Jesus has come to live with us.
If you want to know the Child,
You have to come kneel.
A wonderful reminder that it's not about us. It's not about the presents we receive or even how well we did at picking out meaningful gifts to others. It's really not even about our family or the other loved ones we spend time with this season.
God has come to live with us! We can know Him!
I don't do very well with kneeling. I find that even when I spend time squating at school as I work with a student, my knees ache when I stand up. But I know the more I kneel or squat the better my body can handle it.
I don't do a kneeling posture with my heart very well either. It's hard to bow. Not because the Christ isn't worthy, but because I don't always like to give up my perceived right to do what I want. But it's always good for my heart to take a position of humility, even thought it sometimes hurts at first.
One of the messages I heard at Christmas was that the Light has come. I know I still have areas of darkness within me that I need the Light to expose. This world has plenty places of darkness. But the Light will overcome it. Someday. Soon, I hope.
Emmanuel! God is with us!