My heart is full, and I would be remiss if I didn't take a few minutes to share my feelings of gratitude today. There is no time of year that I love more than Christmas, but to be honest, I've been spinning like a top every since Thanksgiving, and the spirit of the season has been in short supply around here. In the rush to write a couple of sacrament meeting programs I agreed to do, compose the poem I send out as a Christmas card every year, dream up and get down on paper the annual Christmas Eve story for my family, plan dinners and activities that will be at my home in the next two weeks, shop for gifts, and prepare to host the family on Christmas Day, I have felt more stressed than blessed. I haven't even been listening to Christmas music every waking hour like I usually do!
Thankfully, the north star that is my church has a way of making sure I receive the blessings I need when I need them. Saturday night, I pushed myself out the door to enjoy the annual Christmas dinner of our home ward (where Dave and I attended before he became bishop of the singles ward and where we will attend again once he is released). Frankly, I very nearly didn't go at all, feeling that my time would be better spent in continuing my preparations for Christmas. I mean, the tree we ordered is in the back yard sitting in a box! We haven't even put it in water yet, let alone attached a stand or thrown on some ornaments. What's more, my Thanksgiving decorations are still up, and I have the whole singles ward coming over for dessert next Sunday and dinner Monday! Tonight we have an activity, tomorrow night we have an activity, and Wednesday night we have an activity...none of which I can miss. On top of that, I don't feel well. But I digress.
My desire to spend time with good friends prevailed, so Dave and I went to the nearby church building to celebrate the Savior's birth with our family ward. After dinner, the primary put on a little program for us, and seeing them all dressed up in their robes and turbans and various animal ears touched me deeply, as did the familiar music they sang. The theme was "What did the Christmas star mean to you?", and our young people played various participants in the nativity expressing their feelings about the Christ Child. We heard from the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, and even Santa, but what really turned me around was Mary, played by a young woman I have known since her own infancy. Her wholesome loveliness and period clothing created an evocative, compelling representation of the mother of Jesus. She must have felt it too, for when she rose to recite the passages representing Mary's thoughts and feelings, our young friend was so overcome with emotion that she could scarcely speak. Her trembling voice, thick with unshed tears, brought her words to life, filling the room with the spirit of that first Christmas. Needless to say, I was more than glad to be there.
I was also a bit envious. I wanted to be as tuned into that spirit as she was, and I realized that I had been so busy managing Christmas...making it happen, so to speak...that I wasn't allowing time or place in my heart to actually feel it. Don't get me wrong. The things I am busy with are good things, important things, things that matter to the Savior...but I need to find and consecrate ample time to be still and reflect for myself upon the wonder and miracle of Christ's birth.
On the way to church yesterday, I inserted a Christmas CD and let Amy Grant sing to me. (Nobody does it better.) In the middle of the third carol, a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Silent Night, my dam of busy-ness broke. The strain of superficial things was swept away, and tears flowed freely. From a practical point of view, this was not ideal, as I was DWK (driving without kleenex). From a spiritual point of view, however, it was perfect. I had the "Mary" experience I was seeking, and I was able to welcome the season and all its sweetness into my soul. After that, the Christmas Eve story practically wrote itself. And I'll be sending the Christmas card poem out tomorrow. (Even the scripts for the programs are completed!)
On the down side, the tree is still in the yard and Thanksgiving is still in the house. (Hey, ya win some, ya lose some, right?)