Tag Archives: christmas

Let us Pray – a poem

Lutefisk enhanced with bacon

Lutefisk enhanced with bacon

For the fray of the parking lot –
Fuming vultures bumper to bumper:
Lord, give us peace.

For the rehearsals and performances –
And the hithering and thithering thereunto:
Lord, grant us peace.

For the wheedling children –
Who cry “Mine Mine!” finding themselves overcome with wanting (See Daniel 5:26):
Merciful God, give us peace.

For the exchanges of sundry sorts –
Of the cookies, of the festive cards, of the homemade ornaments, of the nasty viruses:
Lord, grant us peace.

For the relatives harboring grievances –
Who will stir up unto themselves gripes, complaints and all manner of lamentations:
Lord, give us peace.

For Mormor Ingrid’s gelatinous lutefisk –
However reminiscent of our Scandinavian family history it may be:
Merciful God, save us no piece.

Of mistletoe and reindeer –
And other traditions melded fancifully with the stable and the manger:
Lord, let us make peace. Amen

Passions: Christmas songs you love, Christmas songs you hate

IMG_4884Over the next two weeks, we’re all going to hear a few Christmas songs. Make that a LOT of Christmas songs. Between next Wednesday night and next Friday morning, I will have the pleasure of attending one junior high Christmas concert, two elementary school Christmas concerts, and two preschool Christmas concerts (in case you were counting, that makes five concerts in 36 hours). By the time they’re all over, I’m sure I’ll be vacillating between cuteness overload and wanting to wear noise-canceling headphones through the New Year.

One thing that most of us can agree on is that Christmas songs are awesome. Part of it is probably because we only listen to them for six weeks out of the year (if we adhere to the “only after Thanksgiving” rule, and I refuse to acknowledge any other kind of people). Part of it is probably because we associate them with all kinds of happy memories. In my mind, Amy Grant equals baking cookies. After performing for a season with The Nutcracker, the opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s ballet will always be linked with the musty smell of my mouse costume as I watched the party scene from the wings. I associate listening to The Forgotten Carols with holiday road trips when I was a teenager (although I gathered my kids to watch a video of the production a few years ago and I was sort of shocked at how bad it was). I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Continue reading

Meditations on Beans and Miracles

Friends of mine, Shaun and Mary Fullmer, are serving a mission in France. In a recent email Sister Fullmer wrote:

“The elders came back to our place for lunch after shopping and to do their weekly email. Because it is la Fête des Rois today (Kings’ Day), we bought galette at Tartapain for dessert. Elder B found the fève (“bean”, or surprise object) and got to wear the crown. He kindly left the figure for us to add to our small collection. Today’s item was an animal – hard to tell for sure but it might be a sheep or a donkey.”

She includes this picture of the fèves they have collected so far. Here’s what they are in the order the Fullmers acquired them: one of the magi, Hobbit character, croissant, baby Jesus, animal. (I’m betting the latest one is a donkey.)

Mary's beans

By doing a little research through the scholarly authority of Wikipedia, I was reminded that Kings’ Day marks Twelfth Night, the beginning of the traditional Christian holiday on January 6th of “Epiphany”, honoring the “revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ” as well as the arrival of the wise men and their gifts to the baby Jesus, twelve nights after his birth. Continue reading

Just Receive

Annunciation by Matthias Stom

Annunciation by Matthias Stom

My ex-husband bought me a waffle maker for Christmas. Well, technically, my kids “bought” me a waffle maker for Christmas, but I know they don’t get that kind of money from their allowance. A few weeks ago, when my ex dropped the kids off on Sunday morning, he brought in a large box and stuck it under my tree. I immediately became nervous because I knew that he spent a fair amount of money on a gift for me, and I certainly had not done the same for him. Helping the kids buy presents for their dad somehow fell off my to-do list this December; I know the two oldest used some of their own money to buy a few trinkets for him at the school’s “Santa’s Workshop”, but the youngest didn’t get him anything. His generous funding of the kids’ gift to me left me feeling awkward—first that I had not helped them reciprocate equally and secondly because I wasn’t sure what the inspiration for his generosity was. Guilt over his past actions? A desire to make himself feel better and to be a ‘good’ person by being nice to his ex-wife? A desire to soften my heart and possibly make it more forgiving? But then, on Christmas morning, as I unwrapped my present, I saw the excited faces of my children intent on my reaction. They knew what I wanted most and were filled with joy as they watched me open their gift to me. I felt my heart soften and a little voice in the back of my mind whispered Receive, just receive. Continue reading

Puffy-Eyed Perfection and the Nativity

Somewhere tangled in the tinsel and light of several Christmas Pasts, I saw a small picture of Brian Kershisnik’s ‘Nativity’ online. The screen colours were tired, but the exuberance and hinted detail of the painting shone through regardless. One day, I promised myself, that is going to be a present to myself. Fast forward years to 2013 where I not only had the opportunity to visit the USA, but I had funds to splurge a little. The first thing I did after getting the emailed confirmation of my flight was to order a print – months in advance – and have it delivered to a friend’s home in Florida. The thought of the scene, carefully scrolled and waiting, warmed my winter as I counted down to soaring over the Pacific.

A few days after landing in Utah, Tay took me to the BYU campus for a look around. The first building we entered, I turned right and nearly fell to my knees. Spread across the entire wall, in heart thrumming, enormous, awe inspiring detail, was the original ‘Nativity’. Mary, Joseph and the bundled Jesus were a heartbeat away. I stood awed at the detail shown, the life inferred, and was flooded with a more rugged, fervent appreciation for that night. I was undone by Mary’ and Joseph’s hands touching – the giving and receiving of comfort, support, relief. The blood on the midwives hands, the puppy clustered dog in the corner, all of it understated, every day, exultant.

What has affected me longest is Mary’s puffy, exhausted eyes. A tiny, simple detail but one I identified with wholeheartedly. I’ve always wondered about Mary’s experience, especially around the birth of Christ, and those hooded, sagged eyelids reflect and amplify my empathy and respect for her. I know there are a thousand other details in the painting, but Mary’s eyes are what speak to me the most.

There are thousands of details about the time of Jesus’ birth, and everyone I know has their own favourite, special part. It’s in making the story our own, the flourishes and details in one part, the boring bit skipped over, that soak it deeper into our own stories, our own hearts, our own empathetic imaginings. It can be the simple details that bring the greatest joy, in paint, in a BYU building, or in our own lives this Christmas.

As this is scheduled to publish just after midnight on Tuesday morning USA time, I’ll be in the thick of Christmas Eve. There’ll be laughter and lights, my boys and banter, food and friends, craziness and crushed wrapping paper. But before bed, or on Christmas, my sons and I will be jumbled together watching this retelling of the Christmas story by kids in their own words, by their own actions. And at Christmas, especially, telling our stories of Jesus in our own words and ways is a tiny, simple spark ready to light up our lives and those around us.

What details do you love about the Christmas story? Has any art or media deepened your empathy and/or understanding for those at the Nativity? What simple beauty and perfection do you see this Christmas?

(The same kids have done another scene, about what might have happened before the first Christmas, too.)

(Here is a link to Brian Kershisnik answering kids’ questions about his ‘Nativity’, right in front of the painting. And I have to admit, I love that the first question was about the dog.)