Tuesday, December 27, 2011

when christmas must go

christmas night and we were about to sit down to dinner -- a late dinner.  the woman in charge had somehow miscalculated the cook time on the roast.  it happens to the best of us, right? "children go play another round of monopoly."  oh well, what's a mother to do?  the silver lining: perhaps it might extend our day a bit.  and that's what we all wanted anyway -- christmas a little bit longer.  while mashing the potatoes,  youngest boy wandered into the kitchen,  plopped his body on a barstool and his chin in his hand.  what's this all about? i wondered.  he had been a fireball of frenzy and excitement all day -- a flash, running from one christmas thing to another.  but now he was here in my kitchen.  still and quiet and the most sedate i'd seen him since november.   when i stopped and looked closer, he seemed downright depressed.  

"connor, what's wrong?" i asked,  wondering if a new toy had broken or if a sibling had been hurtful.
no response. 
"what's the matter, buddy?" i asked again.
and with a defeated (and slightly dramatic) sigh he muttered, "oh, nothing." 
i crossed the kitchen, mashed potato spoon in hand, mama on a mission.   "tell me," i said looking into his eyes.
"well mom, i just don't want christmas to be over. it's going to be bedtime soon  (yes dinner was that late) and we'll go to sleep and when we wake up, we'll have to wait another whole year before christmas comes again. like another whole 365 days. " 
of course that was it.  i should have guessed. "oh connor, i know.  i feel the same way."

at least a little i do. probably not exactly the same as the 8 year old boy who had been
riding his new ATV all day and playing games with his brother and sisters.  i had spent a good portion of my day making a christmas brunch and now this uncooperative dinner.  i spent my day making weak attempts at restoring a little order to the family room:  matching boxes with their lids and tiny pieces with their games, collecting wrapping paper and ribbons, oohing and aahing over every new kid gadget -- mother stuff.  i think it is safe to say, i'd be a little more ready for the closing of christmas.  i'd be a little more welcoming of bedtime and quiet and slumbering everything.  but still, i got it.  i knew what he was saying and i could easily remember being a child and not wanting the day to end.

but it does. and it must.  all good things do.  special wouldn't be so special and good wouldn't be so good if it was all we ever had. all we ever knew.  christmas wouldn't be christmas if it happened every day or even every month.  we'd be tired of cookies,  sick of peppermint and probably be in counseling over the pine needles woven into our carpet. not to mention we'd all be incredibly fat. at least i'd be fat.  but still...i got it.  i understood what my little man was saying.  i understood the boy on the stool with his chin in his hand and the slump in his shoulders.

but even if we only celebrate it on december 25th, christmas is meant to be lived out the entire year long.  i told connor as much and he kind of rolled his eyes at me.  "whatever mom," his expression seemed to say.  "sure, if you say so."  the boy knows his mother well, and he knew what was coming. even at 8 years of age, this boy understands how the wheels of his mother's mind work.  accidentally, he had opened the door.  he'd set himself up for one of my talks.  suddenly, boy-dejected came up with some enthusiasm and off the stool he jumped and out of the kitchen he flew. he had something important to do.  another minute more on his perch and he knew i'd be handing him paper and a pen and an assignment -- perhaps a list of ways in which we can keep christmas coming.  and he'd of been right.  i would have.  because as soon as he dashed out the door, i went back to my mashing. and i mashed me not only those potatoes, but i mashed me some thoughts standing with mixer in hand and his words in my head..  how can we keep a little christmas in the 11 other months of the year?  it was a good question.  and even though that is not exactly what connor had wandered into my kitchen to say, it is what i heard.  and it started me thinking.      

by the time the standing rib roast was ready (finally), i had decided to ask the children.  what can we do to keep a little christmas in our house year round?   kitchen work will do that to a woman.  my best ideas come at the sink when scrubbing potatoes or scouring sticky pots. recently, i wrote almost an entire piece while scraping burnt oatmeal from metal.  it's true.  stand with some steel wool in hand and hot water running full and there's just something about that moment. i lose myself in it -- my family will attest.  often they have come to the kitchen in need of a bandaid or a bagel and found me in my over the sink trance, hands in the water and eyes out the window.  there was a time when i didn't like to do dishes, but with five kids loud and large in my home, i have found a new appreciation for the sound of running water.  plus, my children are pretty smart.  they know if they come within 5 feet of me, they'll have a towel in their hands and a pile of wet pottery at their elbows.  when i do dishes, they become intensely engrossed elsewhere in something good.  if i should happen to see boredom or bickering, even the littlest bit, they are brought into the kitchen and given something to wash. and i assure you, we are never short on things to clean.

and though the party must end and our christmas things must be put away, it is not over.  christmas is not supposed to be a celebration which ends.  it is supposed to be a time to refuel and a reminder to keep going.  stronger.  brighter.  fuller.  as we enter these cold, dark winter months, the bright and light and love of christmas is to keep us warm.  to keep us hot for the heart of God. so what if the tree is down and the candles are snuffed.  so what if the garland is gone and the cookies consumed.  christmas is not over.  Christ is not over.  He is never ending.  He is the alpha and the omega.  the beginning and end. His sweet baby manger is meant for more than the cold month of december.  after racing through this twelfth month we all come to an abrupt halt on december 25th.  we pause and, if we're lucky, we even ponder.  whether we embrace Christ in Christmas or not, we all seem stop for a moment.  but it is not only to celebrate, it is to recharge our spirit.  it is a time meant to stir the embers of our hearts.  not to pack up with the ornaments and santas for another 12 months, but to stir us to a blaze of something greater. something hotter.  a heat which sustains.  right now, but also in february and in june and also in october.  this is Christ in christmas.  this is Christ with us.  december 25th is special...but it is not meant to be put on a pedestal and forgotten...it is not meant to be stored in a musty crate in the basement with fake reindeer and fake holly...it is to be held up before us as a light throughout the ordinary days and the mundane months of living.  it is real.  it is alive.  it is living.

by the skin of his teeth, my 8 year old boy escaped that discussion (okay, sermon).  and mashing those potatoes and scrubbing the pot, in the quiet of my christmas night kitchen...these words came, and so i share them with you.  keep Christ in christmas and keep some christmas close.  go get that paper and pen and write if you want.  make your list. put ink to your ideas.  or perhaps, this year, as you pack up the decorations,  select something to stay. something small.  something simple. but something which will remind you to find a little christmas in every ordinary day.  but whatever you do, don't pack up all of christmas.
... oh, and one last piece of advice from the woman in the kitchen... always read twice the directions on your roast.

merry christmas!

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