Years & years ago we had a children's cantata at our church, "Twinkle & The All Star Angel Band.' If you ask me, it was the best Christmas program before or since. It was a silly little musical with funny songs and a bright stage built to look like heaven by my dad and Trish's Tomer. Both of Daboyz were in it, Jay was Joseph. Mac was a very bad angel whom Kellerbell held for the entire two hours just to keep him from ruining Christmas and potentially being beaten by his mother right there in front of the Baby Jesus and everyone. The main line of the chorus was "sparkle, glimmer, glisten, shimmer; sparkle and glow." Quite a mouth full for twenty or so Sunday Schoolers under the age of ten. And yes, the Baby Jesus was a Cabbage Patch doll.
My kids were raised within the loving walls of Woodhaven Worship Center where we went to church from 1990 until 2002. We left when the Lord called us and with gratitude in our hearts for this church family who remain family in our hearts. This was a place where the pastor kissed the tops of daboyz heads and once skipped preaching on a Wednesday night when he heard that Dean & I were fighting and on the verge of splitting. He showed up on our doorstep to hold us together.
It was a place where the Mr. played bass and I taught Sunday School and we had friends who would walk on broken glass for us. Where the pastor's sons loved like their mom and dad and still come up and kiss me on the cheek.
Woodhaven Worship Center was where we were all raising our kids together and sometimes raising each others kids when babysitting or being chased out of the bathroom during altar call was needed. We saw some marriages that were examples of fifty years of devotion and some that didn't make it. And quite of few of us were on the list of those who gave up...almost.
Our boys sat on the front pew when I played piano and their dad played bass and learned to tell by the look in my eye when they were about two seconds from being hauled up on the stage to sit on the piano bench next to me. They also fell asleep in the back pews when the Sunday evenings were long. They were baptized together with some of their friends by that pastor who kissed the tops of their heads.
Whenever Christmas time rolls around I worry that we have lost the wonder of it all. Do churches still give out brown paper bags with a candy bar and an orange? Woodhaven did. Our present church doesn't. Do little kids sit with mom and dad in a sparkling sanctuary wearing their Christmas clothes singing hymns the old-fashioned way? Is the Christmas story read from the Gospel of Luke still enough on Christmas Sunday morning to fill us with enough joy for another year?
This year I looked through the old pictures again searching for Christmas photographs and remembering the times that flew by. They were not all happy moments. But somehow we knew how to push it all into the distance, beyond January second, so that bright lights and Silent Night on the organ and candy in a brown paper bag again had the power to lift us toward hope and peace. And I realized that there is only as much of this magic as I insist upon. Shall I hang Christmas stockings for my grown-up sons? Shall I bake decadent fattening treats? Shall I put up too many decorations that will be a major pain to take down in a few weeks? Yes. Yes, I will do this and more. I will listen to Christmas music and watch sappy movies. I will make too much food and enough appetizers to serve as our meal. I will keep the magic and the wonder in my home and in my heart because now I know that someone all those years ago was creating the magic for me. It is only me that can let it slip away.
In this picture is my son Jay on the left and Katie Ann on the right. Katie Ann was a little older than my boys and had a little brother Johnny who was a little younger. So if you see pictures from Woodhaven Worship Center of dayboyz as kids, you'll likely see Katie in the background. I suspect her mom's pictures have Jay and Mac in the background.
I chased Katie out of the bathroom during altar call and she was in my Sunday School class. Once at an all-nighter for the youth she hurt her toe and Shellie and I told her to walk it off. The next morning she showed up on crutches with a broken toe. Oops.
Katie Ann went to be with Jesus a few years ago after an accident on her four-wheeler. When I run across these old pictures I forget for a moment that she's gone. When I see a crowd of these now grown-up Woodhaven kids together I look for her until I remember. While my heart breaks for her mom and dad, I know this...she had the wonder of Christmas. I know because I was there watching her sit on the back pew, legs swinging too short to touch the ground, in her Christmas dress opening her brown paper bag and eating the orange inside. I was there when she became one of the big kids carrying around the little ones. I was there when she fell in love and graduated high school. I was there at her funeral where she was surrounded with all of us who had shared her and were saying good-bye too soon.
Jesus is the reason for the season. And we are the expression of the miracle of salvation, born as Emanuel. So I will hang on for another season and maybe someday my grandchildren will find the wonder of sparkling lights and old fashioned hymns. And maybe in it all they will find the celebration of life. Because life is this moment, this day, this Christmas. With my grandparents and Katie gone, it is up to me to celebrate enough for us all until we finally meet again to lift our voices to the Son of God.
Until then...sparkle, glimmer, glisten, shimmer; sparkle and glow.
Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.