Saturday, December 17, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour - Welcome Back

Welcome back for a second stop on the Virtual Advent Tour.  Last weekend, I told you about a friend who is facing a change in her Christmas traditions because she'll be celebrating Christmas from a hospital room.  At the risk of being thought a "downer", this week I want to share about some changes in my own Christmas routine.

For many years, my extended family has gathered at my mother's house for our Christmas meal and gifts.  When we returned home, Dave and I, and our children started our own holiday traditions.  

My mother celebrated her 80th birthday a few weeks ago.  Hosting a gathering of twenty-five or more - even if others bring part of the food - has been increasingly difficult.  This year she is considering letting my sister host.  It looks like a small change.  After all, my sister just lives a few blocks away, the menu will be the same and Mom will contribute part of it.  But its a sign that time is marching on.

Our children are now grown and have homes of their own and, of course, they want their turn to host our immediate family for Christmas.  I enjoy visiting their homes and, to be honest, the house where Dave and I now live was never "home" to either of them.  They were in college when we moved here.  But it's another reminder of the passage of years.  More change.

But on Christmas Eve, the four of us (now five with the addition of Mitch's bride a few weeks ago) will all be in one place.  We will exchange gifts and laugh and eat and play games - just like always.  On Christmas morning we'll have cinnamon rolls in our pj's and watch A Christmas Story on repeat.  We'll dress a little nicer than usual and sit around the table and share a meal.

Tomorrow afternoon, two 7-year-old girls will be at my house to decorate Christmas cookies.  Decorating sugar cookies is a tradition dating back to my mother's childhood and passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter and now to granddaughters.   My two assistants on Sunday are not my granddaughters, but since I don't have any grandkids close enough to help, they are standing in.  The giggles, sticky fingers and sprinkle-covered floor will still be the same.  

Time moves on, people age, traditions adapt, and sometimes - for better or worse - things change for good.  But still we celebrate because Christmas is not about the gifts or the decorations or even the traditions.  As Linus explained to Charlie Brown in their annual Christmas special, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about."
 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”      -Luke 2:8-14
So wherever you are, and whether you have dozens of traditions or none at all, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour

A perfectly decorated tree, Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas in the background, egg nog and hot chocolate, the family gathered together to exchange beautifully wrapped presents with no visions of credit card bills dancing in their heads. This is what I call my "Norman Rockwell" fantasy. I have it every year when I start making Christmas plans. This will be the year that it actually happens. This will be the year with no scheduling conflicts or atrocious grocery bills. THIS will be the year that my fantasy comes true and we have the "perfect Christmas". When it doesn't happen, I'm momentarily crushed and vow to try harder next year.

But this year is different. This year, instead of worrying about finding the perfect gift or how many pies to make, I'm helping plan a benefit for a friend who is spending her Christmas season in the hospital. Kari is a 32-year-old foster-mother of two boys. In May, she and her husband sold their business. Kari had plans to spend the summer at home with her boys, then start job-hunting after school started. Instead, within a few weeks, she was diagnosed with kidney failure due to diabetes, and contemplating a transplant. Her fun summer changed to a string of doctor appointments and hospital stays. An infection lead to more complications, more hospital stays, extreme pain, confinement to a wheelchair and, finally, 42 hours in a coma. While I was searching for deals on Black Friday, she was having  a nerve biopsy. While I decorated the tree, she struggled through physical therapy.

Tonight, several hundred people will gather to throw a party and raise money - not for Christmas gifts or lavish meals - but for hospital bills, medications, and home health care. Friends and family will sacrifice a portion of their Christmas budget to give Kari a chance for more Christmases. My Norman Rockwell picture has faded this year, and in it's place is a vision of Tiny Tim - "God Bless us, every one."