4 Days until Christmas...
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
Jeremy made it home safe and sound - a little tired, but apparently the flight wasn't too bad and nothing got broken, so I think it's safe to call his travels a success. He was spared a lot of the madness that a lot of other people have been going through while trying to get in and out of London for the last two days. We've had this crazy, creepy fog that Jeremy describes as looking like "it was coming out of the ground" when seen from miles up in the air. I'm just happy he's back home again...
After spending most of the day sleeping on and off (apparently dealing with 30 excited little kids makes you as tired as flying across an ocean), I read through my favourite blogs and then started on the news at msnbc.com. I love the news items this time of year - all of the "best ___ of the year" stuff has always entertained me. After I found the article about the London Fog, I saw a link to the Top Ten Wacky Holiday Happenings at the Airport. Lots of cute stories about people doing funny things at the airport, ending with this:
10. My favorite holiday sighting happened when I volunteered for the airline’s traditional “fantasy trip,” which stages a Christmas flight to the North Pole for seriously ill children. The kids boarded the airplane, taxied around the airport and arrived at a hangar decorated as Santa’s Village. To see the wonder and excitement in the children’s eyes and to help them forget — however briefly — their daily round of sickness was priceless. I cried silently the entire time.
We take a lot for granted in this life. Try not to. This holiday season, breathe deeply, love freely and laugh as much as you possibly can — simply because you can.I couldn't have worded that last part any better. The past few months have taught me that the most important things don't cost us any money - and how we should try to always remember the many things we've been blessed with this year.
Even without the snow, that suprisingly, I'm missing, there is magic in the air. I love this time of year: the busy streets, the lights everywhere, the carolers and Christmas music, and the extra bounce in people's steps.
There was an article in the London Metro newspaper this week about a school that decided to abolish the word "Christmas" from the holiday, opting to now call it "Winter Holiday" because some people might be offended by the word Christmas. Since the Canadian schools I was at during Teacher's College had similar policies, I wasn't surprised by this move. No surprise - just total disgust.
I'm very lucky to be at a school where the HeadTeacher is a strong Christian man who believes in keeping Christmas about the birth of Christ. He still talks about Father Christmas and does recognize and accept those in the school who don't celebrate this holiday, but he absolutely refuses to change to "Winter Holidays". He talked to the kids at one assembly about how yes, it is a Christian holiday, but people all around the world will celebrate the birth of a baby - no matter what their faith. I'd never thought about it that way - how this holiday is even more special to me because of two darling little boys who live across the ocean.
December 21st, 2005
The road stretched ahead of me, taunting me with endless views of concrete and yellow lines, with nothing but fields all around me. Luckily, there was no snow on the ground, and the traffic was surpringly light for the stretch of highways between Windsor and London. As Christmas music jingled cheerfully from my car speakers, I thought about the reason I was making this trip...
Kim had given birth less than 3 weeks earlier to a little boy who I had yet to meet - a source of great frustration to me, but finishing teaching placements and writing exams were sort of important to getting my teaching degree. And so I had to read about what happened via emails and blogs, hoping that time would pass quickly so I could see them soon. Finally it was all over, and I immediately planned my trip to meet me second nephew for the first time. Just like when I met Addis the first time, I was nervous and excited all at once. It's not everyday that you get to meet the singlemost important person in your best friends' lives...
As the kilometers rolled past, I started thinking about Mary - as I often do this time of year - and the travels that she had to make while pregnant. There's this song by Amy Grant called "Breath of Heaven" - one of my favourite Christmas songs ever - that talks about traveling on moonless nights in a cold world, afraid of the choices she'd made, wondering about whether or not she was good enough, and finally putting it in God's hands; accepting her fate. I was lucky enough to perform this song during a Christmas Eve mass several years ago, along with people standing behind me holding candles. Singing it that night was an amazing experience and preparing for that solo brought me a lot closer to my faith. I'm one of those Catholics who believes in my religion, but isn't always good at attending Mass every Sunday... I don't often discuss religious beliefs (especially my own) because I feel very strongly that people should be able to believe that they believe and that we should all try to respect and understand that. Regardless, I do have a strong faith that God will help things all work out okay, and Christmas will always be more about a little baby's birth than Santa and his reindeer.
The parallels of making a trip because of a baby hit me, and I got pretty emotional as the enormity of the situation became more clear than ever. There was a REAL BABY at their house! One of my dearest friends was now a mother! And I was finally going to meet her son for the first time. And God willing, I would be part of his life for a long time...
Having shed most of my tears on the drive to London, the excitement and wonder of that little baby took over when I got to their house, and I managed not to baul like a baby (no pun intended) as Kim handed him to me.
Last Christmas was a very special one, and as we get ready to celebrate just the two of us, those memories will probably be a source of great comfort, even when they make me cry a little.
It might not snow here in London by Christmas Day, but I can close my eyes and remember the glow of coloured lights through the snow, the biting cold of getting into the car in your fancy dress clothes for Christmas Eve Mass, driving through the streets after church to look at the lights and see if we could spot Rudolph, the hot chocolate (and Bailey's or Spanish coffees as I got older), then settling down to listen to Christmas music together and open "1 present only" before getting ready for bed. Any every once in awhile, fat snowflakes would tumble from the sky on Christmas Eve - that magic Christmas snow that made my eyes widen and made me want to run outside to catch some on my tongue.
This year we'll either be doing Midnight Mass at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral. Obviously it's a very hard choice to make, so I'd appreciate suggestions or opinions if anybody has any. Christmas Day will be a quiet - music playing from my laptop speakers as we open presents from home and make many phone calls overseas. Then either a roast turkey meal in a pub (if we can find one open that's nearby) or a roast chicken dinner from my toaster oven. I refuse to not have stuffing and gravy and potatoes on Christmas Day. Then we'll cuddle up and watch a movie.
It might not be what we remember, but I think our Christmas will be merry and bright after all.
many moonless nights.
Cold and weary,
with a babe inside.
And I wonder
what I've done.
Holy father, you have come,
and chosen me now,
to carry your son.
I am waiting in a silent prayer,
I am frightened of the load I bear,
In a world as cold as stone,
must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now.
Breath of heaven, hold me together,
be forever near me,
breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven, light in my darkness,
pour over me your holiness,
for you are holy,
breath of heaven.
Do you wonder,
as you watch my face,
if a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am,
for the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong
Help me be