An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. -Luke 2:9–11
The first day of December through the twenty-fourth day in December...
What does Act I entail for you and your family? When I consider Act I for me and my family, thoughtful consideration of gifts, gatherings, and preparations for each are involved. My memories of Act I include my delayed flight while transferring planes in Utah between flights from Portland, OR to Fort Wayne. I watched other travelers relay messages to and from their families about changes in plans. My family adjusted their plans in preparation for my near-midnight arrival instead of my arrival on time for holiday dinner with them.
Act I December 2010, Steve uprooted a small Arborvitea from his yard which served as my tiny Christmas tree, sparsely decorated, but aglow with the thoughtful consideration of a loved-one.
Another Act I memory is the homemade Christmas card I made out of shreds of multi-colored paper, shaping each with the others into a Christmas tree. I folded a tiny piece of red paper into a square adorned with a tiny bow on top serving as a gift under the handcrafted tree. My mother framed this Christmas card she received from me and exclaimed, “Maggie-Margaret, how lovely!”
The twenty-fifth day of December
Who is part of Act II with you and your family? An Act II treasure was the time I could not return home for Christmas with family, but remained cozy in the comfort of my studio apartment on NW Glisan St. in Portland. Although I had invitations to share Christmas day with friends, I chose to remain home in my flannels and a number of warm blankets. I had purchased foods for my very own Christmas meal and was surrounded by gifts mom had mailed to me in time for my holiday alone. When I felt ready to open my gifts, I phoned home. I listened to mom share about their day together in Fort Wayne and told about my Christmas day. As I unwrapped her gifts to me during our phone chat, I describe the details about wrapping paper, box, and each gift. Although not together physically, mom, family, and I were very much together in spirit. Although alone, I did not feel lonely.
For years, Act II memories have been created with my brother and his family who host Christmas morning. We gather first for a leisurely brunch around their quaint table, younger members of the family eager to take last bites and start in on the gifts. Their always tall, beautifully adorned Christmas tree is surrounded by well-wrapped packages. We gather around the gifts, brimming coffee mugs within reach, as gifts are passed out to their expectant recipient. It’s a lovely occasion; we’re so fortunate.
December 25, 2016 was the first Christmas without mom. I was fierce about preparing her favorite foods for our Christmas brunch at my home, around her table (now mine). Our menu in mom’s honor included red, molded Jello with walnuts, celery, grapes, and mandarin orange slices. Dad made the traditional coffee cake shaped like a candy-cane. Sister picked up a quiche. I served mom’s favorite Christmas cookies such as treasure balls, bourdon balls, secret kiss cookies, and roll-n-cut frosted with sprinkles on each. We acknowledged mom’s absence, but with each taste of her favorite foods, we kept her close to heart and body. We missed her, we miss her.
The twenty-sixth day of December through the thirty-first day of December
How does Act III bring closure for you and your family? New Year’s Eve with friends 2015. Jennie and Brad hosted. We each brought food and beverage, gathered in a tiny room of their home which felt cramped and dark (other than the crackling fire streaming on their TV). Frankly, I did not understand the cramped arrangements considering the number of us who had gathered. But at that sweet moment between “well, gotta go” and “NO WAY, I’M STAYING!” Jennie lit up her large living-room featuring a homemade dance floor with DJ lights, soundboard, and dance moves to match. Such a silly, fun Act III memory for me.
Act III 2012 between three retail jobs and living with my brother’s family in their basement, I was eager for closure to this particular season. Life had unwrapped an outcome I could not have anticipated and there I was starting my life over again. December 2012 felt so challenging, the anticipation of Christmas cheer was overcome by haste to work a few jobs, earn as much money as I could, and get back out on my own again. I did not want to remember that I could not give gifts that year. December 31st 2012 was humbling. My brother’s family encouraged me to join them and a few of their neighbors with the countdown to midnight, 10 . . ., 9 . . ., 8 . . ., . . . As I watched six-year-old Peter fighting to keep his eyes open, wrought between “I’m so sleepy” and “but everyone else gets to stay up late,” together we exclaimed “Happy New Year!” My brother hugged me, reminding me it’s going to be better in the New Year.
Vivid is the memory of my Act III last year. I hastily packed up the Christmas decorations, stuffing awkwardly the ornaments into boxes they had not known before. My new kittens thought the clean-up process to be the purpose of Christmas! The best part for them was reaching for strewn ribbons, fallen round ornaments, and boxes too small for their furry, plump bodies. It’s all over until next year.
I love Christmas. I love the lights, gift giving, gift receiving, and how the meaning of Christmas changes from year to year. December 2011 felt enchanting, December 2012 felt heart breaking, December 2016 felt sorrowful, but this December feels fun! As for Christ, His coming, it seems to me Christ entails, includes, and shares three parts. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Parents, child, community, and beginning, middle, end for each of us.
He is coming, He is come, and He is to come again. Merry Christmas!