Happy Third Day of Christmas! I'm so glad that I get to celebrate twelve full days (not nearly as good as Easter, though, when we get fifty)! My tree still glitters merrily, and only last night I finally got the garland that holds my cards to look right. I'll admit, I've had it with Christmas carols on CD, but the Christmas chants by Anonymous 4 still hit the spot. I'm amazed at the television fare; except for a few commercials, it's as though Christmas never happened. All those months of buildup, and now it has disappeared. Macy's is still having their after-Christmas sale, though, I see.
So I've been sick. I know, priests aren't supposed to get sick at Christmas, but it's a stressful time. There are lots of administrative details to take care of: three service leaflets in three days (with a secretary who gets very anxious and needs lots of gentling), very special services that have lots of visitors -- potential churchgoers among them -- and that only happen once a year, so it's always hard to remember just what to do. But there's lots of heart-work to do, too -- people widowed during this year -- the holidays in the first year are always the worst, and other singles who are blue about being alone at this "family time," and others also under stress with very touchy feelings. I try to touch base with most of these folks at some point during the season. And of course, that's not even to mention my own personal heart-work -- memories of my daughter, my mother and father, my beloved youngest brother, times when my holidays were full of loved ones who are gone. I guess it's not so surprising that some little bug or other might penetrate my immune system at a time like this. So Sunday night I knew a cold (I hoped it was only a cold) was coming, and Monday, Christmas Eve, I was truly sick, but just a cold, thanks be. The great juggling act was planning when to take the antihistamine so it would be in effect during the service (a sneezing marathon on Christmas Eve, with communion to celebrate, just wouldn't be elegant) -- but not so early that I would collapse unconscious on the altar during communion. It went fine. Then there was Christmas Day, which I usually love, to negotiate -- I did manage to be cranky to the wrong parishioner, who is now holding a grudge -- sigh. I love these services though: for me Christmas Eve feels like "Silent Night, Holy Night," and Christmas day feels like a cross between Charles Dickens and George Herbert -- a merry morning service before a celebratory day.
After church, I spent most of the day on the sofa, though I did manage to get a turkey into the oven (love those leftovers), and cook it badly (undercooked at first, then dried out the white meat). Oh, well, the white meat will be fine in pot pies. I prefer dark meat anyway -- why don't they breed turkeys to have more of that, rather than those huge breasts that their poor little feet can hardly hold up? This one was free-range, but I'm not sure it was in any way superior to the regular, mass-produced (and far cheaper) turkeys. What think others?
Today I had planned to take a vacation day, but the secretary was in a panic about the newsletter, so I had to be in the office. I also had my sermon to finish (yay!). So I spent most of the morning essentially constructing the newsletter myself, because there was the problem of having to fill an even number of pages (6, as it turns out) with an odd number of pages of material (5, as it turns out). So we had fun with spacing and clip art, and I didn't need the extra hassle. Our usual couple who come to fold service leaflets and newsletters also told us TODAY that they wouldn't be available, so we had that task to do, as well.
And now here I am, with a week that I intended to be celebratory and productive (all that reading and writing I have left to do -- current status is 5 books and 2 papers by mid-January), wasted whining on the sofa (have I said that I don't like being sick, and tend to whine?), or working when I should have been whining on the sofa. But I'm better today, and intend to continue improving. I have two full days yet to read and write, so no telling what I'll be able to accomplish.
But I do have to add this: my holiday was not entirely gray. I had many gifts and phone calls from family and friends. My best friend Cheryl was her usual generous heart, and we had a great time last night on the phone talking over every single gift. We both had similar "themes" this year -- she did a lot of Italy (that trip in 2005 was a golden moment we'll share forever, as we share many other golden moments). My "theme" was a more general theme of travel -- I sent her a bunch of stuff in a funky little suitcase. And my family was thoughtful and generous, and my congregation gave me a cash purse that is a lovely addition. I also got many gifts from parishioners, including an Amazon.com gift certificate that I look forward to each year with great glee. So I do feel loved, even though I know it shouldn't be about the "stuff."
I didn't do my nativity scene this year; I didn't have the time or energy for it. It's a big production for me. Yesterday my cleaning lady even asked about it. But just thinking about it makes me smile, so I'm going to show you some pictures from last year.
Here's half of it -- the most panoramic shot I could seem to get:
I put a door atop a library table, to get the biggest surface possible. Here are a few details:
This is the Holy Family, with a shepherd. Please note mistletoe, red rose tea animals, kitties, a mouse with a piece of cheese, and on the far right, a glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary, given to me by a friend who bought it in Rome. Also note the airplane that has landed on the right-side roof of the stable. These are the fun details that make me smile.
Here's what I call "The Poultry Corner." Yeah, yeah, the kitties are nearby, as you can see (lower left) -- but they all seem to coexist. The palm tree in the upper right corner is a bit hard to make out, as is the back of St. Patrick (lower right) as he waits to speak to Santa Claus. The Baby Jesus has lots of opening acts and warm-ups during Advent, before he finally makes his arrival on Christmas Eve. I don't think I got a good shot of Elvis seranading the Holy Family.
Here's a group waiting in line at the snack wagon -- obviously the Baby Jesus has not yet entered the stadium, ladies and gentlemen. In the upper left, you see the Red Rose Tea polar bear (tiny), lurking just behind the acrylic bunnies that I got at Big Lots last Eastertime.
Okay, I think that gives you an idea of the eclectic nature of my creche. I love putting it together and laughing at the funny groupings and arrangements I come up with. I love finding funny things to add. This year I had planned to add a dinosaur from Tractor Supply, but I simply ran out of energy. Next year. Baby Jesus seems to love all the visitors to his nativity, whatever their size and scale. And I really do think that's the way God loves us: large or small, ridiculous or sublimely beautiful -- God loves each and every one of us as though we were God's very favorite child. More about the Christmas season later, but that's enough for now. If you celebrate Christmas at all, I hope you'll take the time to celebrate all twelve days, and not stash everything away on New Year's or (horrors!) even the day after Christmas! Some of us even stretch the season clear to Candlemas (February 2), when it's time to get ready for Valentine's Day (or Lent this year, which begins on February 6!).