Tuesday, December 26, 2006

After-Christmas Commentary: Christmas Eve

(I know I said I'd have pictures. It would help if I remembered to take the camera with me places. Or to take pictures when the camera is right there. It's not one of my strong points, alas.)

It was a busy Christmas Eve. After the Sunday morning service, we came home, had a quick lunch and then met old friends at the theater to see The Nativity Story. (What a perfect time to see it!) It was utterly beautiful. We will buy this and watch it year after year.

One thing I hadn't appreciated was how much of a teenager's movie it would be. But the main character is a girl of 13 or 14, suddenly forced into growing up fast as she finds herself expecting a child and basically married to a young man, a decade older than her, who accepts the roles of husband and father. If not a typical love story, it is certainly a tale of their "relationship," as they get to know one another and try to understand their place in the larger story of Israel and its Messiah. It's a powerful coming-of-age story, too, for Mary especially, as she leaves childhood behind and accepts motherhood and marriage with beauty and grace. Joseph, too, shoulders the challenges of marriage and fatherhood, social pressure and physical exertion with a nobility that most 23-year-old men of today would be hard-pressed to summon up. He is the hero of the movie, and Mary a most humble heroine. Our teenagers were moved.

Old friends and their extended family joined us at our church's 5:00 family service; then we all went to Macaroni Grill for dinner with my husband's parents. (Going out for Italian food on Christmas Eve is one of my husband's fond memories from childhood. His family always went in to New York City that night for dinner and then over to this church where his dad was a professional singer in the choir. I once heard the men and boys sing carols on Christmas Eve; it was one of the most beautiful sounds in one of the most beautiful settings ever. Enlarge the indoor picture here, and imagine it. It will take your breath away.)

After that, we went back to church for the 9:00 candlelight service in our not-so-breathtaking rented surroundings. Papa Rooster officiated and gave a lovely ten-minute homily. Incredibly, Chicklet4 and Bitty Bantam(20months) stayed awake and played happily in the church office with Bantam7 babysitting, so I was able to read Scripture and lead the Prayers of the People before joining my older kids in the rear of the congregation. A gentleman who appeared to be a visitor kept watching our row with a curious consternation, and I could tell he was trying to figure out how many kids I actually had, as their numbers kept revolving. At one point, Bitty Bantam escaped from Bantam7 and wandered partway down the center aisle before he was apprehended and whisked out of sight once more, which amused rather than annoyed this gentleman, I was relieved to see. It was a beautiful service despite the antics in the back row.

Bitty Bantam and Chicklet fell asleep on the way home. We put them to bed, let the older kids open our traditional "one gift each" on Christmas Eve, had a little eggnog, sent the rest of the kids to bed, wrapped three more gifts, filled the stockings, and tumbled into bed ourselves.

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