Today I'm rifling through my Christmas Eve memories as I mentally prepare my day. When I was very small we had Christmas at my grandparent's in Iowa. There was always snow and with nine aunts and uncles the tree always seemed to have a million presents, the house filled with noise and laughter. I am ten years older than my little brother and nearly every Christmas Eve he "spent the night" with me in my room. That, of course, ended when Donald and I got married! I remember the Christmas when Donald came home from the Navy after a six month absence. I had strep throat, his brother was arriving imminently and we ended up watching "A Christmas Story" on tv half a dozen times. That was also the year I received my best Christmas gift ever. Donald put a large bonus check and a note in my stocking, saying that he was taking me to England for my first time! Then there was the Christmas that my youngest son was born. He came home from the hospital on the 23rd and, let me tell you, it is incredible to hold a brand new infant while you ponder Mary and her infant Son. I also remember a Christmas Eve in Iceland when I had an allergic reaction to something and I had to get a large shot of Benedryl in my backside. When I got back to my apartment, well after midnight, everyone was still there, playing cards! In Virginia we lived in a ten block historical pocket that looked like an English village. We often took bike rides because the weather was so nice. We would walk to our 200 year old church for the service and afterward we would walk to the Chinese buffet before going home to open packages.
This brings me to my one constant Christmas Eve memory. In all my Christmas', all around the world, I only recall one or two without or Christmas Eve service. The Eve just isn't the Eve without the quiet beauty of hearing the Christmas Story and singing "Silent Night" by candlelight. As a child, that beauty vied with the agony of knowing there were packages waiting, and I'm sure this will be true tonight for my own boys. Christmas Eve service puts things in perspective; first things first, if you will. I've had years where I had no Christmas spirit until Christmas Eve service and then, suddenly, my heart is lightened and at peace. The rush and madness of the season is behind me and my focus is suddenly sharp and clear. "Joy to the World, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King!"
May your day be filled with peace and Joy! Gledileg Jol!