Dec 14, 2011

Christmas can be found in the strangest places.

I found mine this year in a little old man ringing a bell and singing the Lord’s Prayer.

Written by Kortnee With-a-K

As the holiday season approaches, I find myself surrounded, inundated, infiltrated, and begrudgingly besieged by the commercialization of Christmas.  I often find myself going through the motions while feeling strangely void.  I find myself commiserating with friends and strangers in check-out lines with dazed confusion not over the joy of the holiday but simply over the wonderment of the date, “My goodness, is it already December?” and “Holy cow, how did it get to be December already?” and “Gosh, where did Autumn go?” It seems to be a confusing time for others as well; I definitely do not feel alone in my bemused bereavement of summer.

Every year this shell-shocked state comes to me earlier and earlier. This year it happened before Halloween.  I stood in that aisle struggling to choose between the peanut butter cups and the Twizzler-Skittle mix.  As I battled within myself trying to remember which tooth-decaying item the costumed-kids of my neighborhood cheered over last year, I lowered my eyes to think.   My memory just isn’t what it used to be; a scary thought unto itself. I’m way too young to be having these private conversations with myself in Wal-Mart.  Why can’t I be one of those ladies who spins past the candy, barely slowing her cart as she grabs three bags of sugar in various forms and whisks off to grab the dog food?  Self-deprecation isn’t helping; I need to focus.  Hmm, okay, I have something: there was that pirate boy who squealed over the chocolates and his adorable kitty-cat toddling baby sister who grabbed a handful of mini peanut-butter cups.  But then there were the Thompson girls dressed up as three different colored M&M’s that told me that licorice was their favorite candy in the whole wide world.  “Mine too” I told them.  Okay that’s it, I’ll buy MY favorite; forget about the kids. Besides, I must have something to eat as I sit there and wait for them all to show up.  Licorice and Skittles it is. That’s my final answer.

As I raised my eyes from this reverie, I found myself staring into the blinking nose of Rudolph.  Wait a minute.  Wait just a minute.  Am I awake? Peanut butter cups or candy canes?  Huh?  CANDY CANES! This is one of those moments in life when the turntable playing the soundtrack in my mind makes an abrupt screeching sound as the needle scrapes across the record. I instantly went from humming “The Monster Mash” to being catapulted by a blinking nose into a Winter Wonderland.  These monsters needs to get out of Santa’s forest; hold on while I find some different vinyl!  Bing Crosby must be here somewhere singing Silver Bells.

Well, I survived the Halloween candy incident and the kids of the hood seemed thrilled by the peanut butter cups AND the licorice AND the skittles.  Only one little guy looked at me with a perplexed grin as he pulled a candy cane out of the Halloween bowl.

And I made it through Thanksgiving too.  I wasn’t even bothered by my neighbor’s giant blow-up Frosty the Snowman waving at me from his roof across the street on the day before we had our turkey feast.  In fact, I even waved back and smiled.  I thought, well what the heck, the world needs a little more cheer.  And it is true! I was reminded by a Facebook friend that what difference does it make if people start spreading Christmas joy a little early because we could all use a little more “joy-to-the-world” in our attitudes.  She was right; I couldn’t agree more.  It seems there is always too much to argue for, fuss over, complain about, or hassle with.  So yeah, let’s go ahead and Deck the Halls a little early.  I’m actually starting to LIKE the idea!  In fact, as much as I love autumn, let’s just go right from summer to Christmas and nix winter entirely.  Yeah!  Summer, Christmas, spring, and then back to summer again! This idea has merit somewhere.

But despite my new seasons, I still wasn’t feeling CHRISTMAS.  You know: Christmas.  Not Christmas, the noun, but Christmas: the adjective.  The adjective “Christmas”- that one and only word that perfectly and beautifully describes the warmth, the perfect love, the joy, the giving, the child-like wonderment, the family memories, and the laughter.  It’s the feeling that only a newborn king can bring to your heart; the KNOWING of God’s huge love for us; the realization that he is indeed especially fond of us.  I just wasn’t feeling Christmas.  And yet, like everyone else around me, I was DOING Christmas (the noun).  I was doing the hustle bustle, the shopping, the decorating, the Christmas cookie exchange parties, the tree trimming, the list making, the card mailing, the gift wrapping, the package sending, the donation to Heifer International to buy a goat, the internet purchases, the Wassailing, and even the booking of the ski trip.  But I didn’t feel anything.  No excitement, no anticipation, no Christmas. Just going through the routine.

Until, the other day, in the midst of running errands; it all changed.

I found Christmas.

During a harried “things-to-do-today” spree to the bank, the mail center, picking up dog-food at The Feed Store (since we haven’t gotten any since Halloween), and a 20-minute speed workout at the gym; I stopped at Hobby Lobby to pick up a newly mounted and framed puzzle for our daughter to hang in her college apartment. (It was one of these thousand-piece complicated puzzles that took over a year to put together- but that’s a different story entirely, so I’ll save it for another day.)  As I hurried across the parking lot I could hear the Salvation Army bell ringing.  As always when I hear that bell ringing I quietly stopped to kick myself for not being a cash-carrying-member of society and wondered why they don’t give those folks a credit card machine.  Oh, the guilt. So now I have to decide, do I walk by while averting my eyes like most folks do or should I look the bell-ringer in the eye and give a smile of encouragement.  Well, anyone reading this who knows me personally, knows that I chose the latter. I put on my best smile and headed that way.  As I got closer I saw an old guy ringing the bell.  Then I noticed another older man holding his Hobby Lobby bag standing there with the bell-ringer.  His coat was a bit tattered at the edges and his posture was fragile. He was wearing a crooked Santa hat.

And then I heard them singing.

Two old gentlemen singing their hearts out in perfect harmony.  Two strangers, or perhaps old friends, gathered round the giving pot, outside a craft store, lifting their voices in a song of praise, at the edge of a parking lot.

And oh how they sang.

Their voices held the purity of a child singing melted into the wisdom of time.  They sang with confidence. They sang with joy and love. They sang with CHRISTMAS!  And their song was a gift.  They lifted the Lord’s Prayer on high and turned that parking lot into a cathedral of angels praising Hosanna in the highest, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glooooooooory, foreeever and eveeer, Amen.”

Yes.  Amen.  And wow.

I realized as I began clapping that I wasn’t the only one lucky enough to happen upon this beautiful Christmas moment.

And I was glad.

I walked into that store with the biggest smile on my face and my heart bursting.  I walked into that store filled with love from head-to-toe, wanting to hug everyone I saw.  I felt strangely like Scrooge on Christmas morning.  I felt Christmas. CHRISTMAS- the adjective.

I don’t know who they were and I didn’t get to thank them. But two strangers filled my heart; two normal guys out there spreading Christmas without even trying; two of my very own Christmas angels. Yes, Amen to that.

So, Merry Christmas, everyone, and may it be an adjective for you this year.


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