A Christmas Wish

beach sunrise

The winter solstice has passed, and we are on our way to longer days, shorter nights. It makes sense that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at about the same time as the world around us begins to grow brighter.

As we wait these last few days, I wish you hope.

I wish you love.

I wish you the joy of welcoming an infant savior into the world and the peace that comes from welcoming the adult Christ into your days.

Merry Christmas!

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A Letter from Santa

santa star on keyboard

I don’t recall ever writing a letter directly to Santa, but I do remember making a Christmas list each year.  I guess I just trusted my mother to forward the lists to the North Pole.  Apparently she did, because I always got what I wanted and then some.

When I was in second grade I asked for a typewriter.  A real typewriter.  Not a Fisher Price-type toy typewriter, oh no!  I wanted the real thing.  I wanted to type words, sentences, stories.  I wanted to hear the ding at the end of the line signaling me to return the carriage with a satisfying thump.  I wanted to roll the paper up and down and finally, at story’s end, yank it from the machine in grandiose style.

On Christmas morning I was thrilled to find a typewriter under the tree, turquoise with white plastic keys.  Better yet, there was a note in it, typed by Santa himself!  I felt like the luckiest kid on earth…

until I read the entire note:

Dear Ida Beth,

Merry Christmas.  Be a good girl and clean up your room.

Love,

Santa

Hey, wait a minute!  That’s not something Santa would say!

Those words came directly from my mother’s mouth, and I knew it.  My mother had contaminated Santa!  She told him what to type in that note!  This was her evil plan to make me clean my room!  I tried to play it cool and not let on that I knew what she was up to, and pretty soon I forgot about the note altogether if only for a little while.

I never forgot about the typewriter, though.  While the current technology is so much easier to use, I kind of miss the dings, the thumps, and yanking out the finished piece with a flourish.

This year I have asked Santa for a new laptop.  Though I still don’t clean my room much, I have been pretty good otherwise, so I like my chances.  There won’t be any thumps or dings, no paper to roll up and down.  Hopefully there won’t be a note either:

Dear Ida Beth,

Merry Christmas.  Be a good girl and change your mother’s air conditioner filter.

Love,

Santa

Happy Holidays!

happyholidayssock

“Happy holidays!” When I was growing up I heard this familiar expression sprinkled liberally among others: Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year. I understood Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, but I wasn’t so sure about the others. I remember asking my mother about Season’s Greetings when I saw it on a sign in front of a local synagogue. She explained it something like this: Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah around the same time we celebrate Christmas. Pretty much everyone celebrates the new year which is not a religious time like Christmas and Hanukkah. Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays include the entire season, for everyone, from Thanksgiving to January, instead of just one particular day.

Using greetings such as Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings made sense to my five- or six-year-old self. It seemed much more convenient than trying to list all the possible holidays in one greeting or trying to figure out which holidays were celebrated by any particular person. Most importantly, the idea appealed to my sense of fairness and allowed me to include everyone as Mrs. Reeves, my kindergarten teacher, taught me to do. Because my mother’s explanation was delivered purely and simply in the loving spirit of the season, those greetings remained pure and sincere in my heart and mind.

Using inclusive greetings still makes sense to my fifty-something-year-old self, particularly since there are even more cultural and religious events celebrated in our midst. There are more people to greet. There are more celebrations to bless. There is more joy to share!

If you observe something other than Christmas or in addition to Christmas, I wish you the grandest of celebrations. Whatever you celebrate, or if you don’t celebrate at all, I wish you love. I wish you enough. I wish you peace.

Back to Christmas

back to christmasYou hear a lot of people complain about the commercialization of Christmas.  You see a lot of signs and memes reminding us that Christ is the “reason for the season.”  You read all kinds of articles about how we need to spend less time on social media and more time in real conversations with real people.  This weekend I read a pretty special little book by Dennis Canfield that makes those points, and a few more (maybe even more important), in the most delightful way.  It’s called Back to Christmas, and although it is considered a children’s book, everyone will enjoy this fun yet meaningful tale.

The story starts with Marmel who takes his job as head labeling elf (you know, “naughty” or “nice”) so seriously that he begins to believe the whole point of Christmas is to separate people into groups.  When the naughty list dwindles down to only one family, Marmel worries that he will soon be out of a job, so he embarks on a mission to make sure they stay on the naughty list… permanently!

Of course, Santa wants everyone on the nice list, so he recruits his brother, Reverse Santa to help.  That’s right, Reverse Santa.  He wears green, lives at the South Pole, and instead of giving gifts, he takes things away!

In the middle of it all is the Krumwerth family, headed straight for the permanent naughty list.  Only one of them, daughter Amanda, knows the danger, and now she must try to undo years of naughty behavior and steer everyone toward the nice list.

In addition to all that, Canfield enlists the help of flying penguins (ridiculous yes, but no more so than flying reindeer), a heavy metal rocker named Repo, more elves, and a little bit of magic to advance the story to its moving conclusion.  This is a perfect holiday story to enjoy on your own or to share with a child or anyone else.  Who knows?  You may help someone find their way Back to Christmas.

If you read this book and would like to share your thoughts, please do so here in the comments.  AND if you you’d like to share your own ideas for getting back to Christmas, please share those as well.