Every year, my home church has a special program they use the Sunday before Christmas called “A Simple Christmas.” During the service, Brother David (our pastor) talks about the meaning of Christmas, what the birth of Christ meant for the world and for us as individuals. He talks about each piece of the Christmas story and its significance in our lives now. As he talks about the proclamation of the angels, sweet children dressed in white robes and tinsel halos appear behind the pulpit. As the choir sings, a young couple donning earth toned robes and head coverings slowly make their way down the aisle and sit in the front. While the pianist plays a haunting rendition of We Three Kings, men in brightly colored robes and funny hats walk up, stifling smiles as they peer from the corner of their eyes at their giggling children in the pews. This year, while my sister sang a song about the irony of a baby being a King, another angel walks in carrying a baby Jesus (sometimes real, sometimes just a doll if the real baby has decided the acting life is not for her after all). Brother David takes a different theme each year and uses testimonies from members of the church. This year the theme was Faithfulness and 8 people, myself included, got up and talked for just a few minutes about ways that we had experienced the Faithfulness of God. The stories ranged from a young girl whose life was spared after a tragic car accident, a couple who found love again after both of their spouses had died, a divorced woman with three young children finding a way to provide for her family, a young missionary assisting migrants with legal aide and realizing that they had much in common.
The service is a beautiful and unique one. A break from the norm of sermons and hymns. There is an anticipation in the air, as everyone waits for the final swell of music. There is a sense of awe that can be seen on the faces of the congregation at the sight of a simple setting, people they know well, playing parts of the Christmas story without words. Listening to the testimonies of others and to the words of Brother David, remembering (or for some, learning for the first time) the story of Christmas, of the significance of the birth of Jesus.
A Simple Christmas. One without all the fuss and consumerism that has taken over this beautiful tradition. And though the service is a production, a rehearsed scene, there is meaning behind it. Not just for the people watching and listening, but for these involved. And it goes beyond the service. For me, A Simple Christmas doesn’t mean that I forgo giving presents to my family. It doesn’t mean that I don’t participate in the huge meals (the eating or the cleaning up), or flip my nose at festive parties and gatherings. It just means that beyond all of that, there is a deeper meaning. It is always a struggle to fight through the traffic, the corny Christmas music that can ruin a perfectly good holiday cheer, staying up late to wrap last minute presents. But in the struggle, beyond the struggle, it is always important for me to remember. Watching my family interact and joke around, listening to my father read a familiar passage from Luke on Christmas Eve right before we go to bed, the sense of solmenness as my entire extended family on my mother’s side gathers on Christmas Eve at my grandfather’s church for communion, waking up to smells of blueberry muffins and extended family gathered around the breakfast table.
This year is a particularly special Christmas for my family for a few reasons. I am back home from Hong Kong. I spent last Christmas overseas, away from my family. Through the miracle of Skype, I was able to see and talk to them, but it was hard to be away. So there is much joy in being home for this special occasion. This Christmas also marks the last Christmas my family will experience in our current status. My sister is getting married in March, and though Scott has been a part of our family for years, it will be strange next Christmas to wake up and have to wait for my sister and her husband to drive over for breakfast. And finally, as many of you already know, Christmas is a double day of celebration for my family, as it is also my brother’s birthday! This year my little brother is turning 18. It is hard to believe that the little baby who “interrupted Christmas morning” for my sister and I 18 years ago is all grown up.
A Simple Christmas. Spent at home. Remembering. Being thankful. Being blessed. Passing on blessings and cheer. A Merry Simple Christmas to all chose to celebrate.