". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Memories

Some of my blogging friends have recently been sharing Christmas memories. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading their stories but in doing so have been reminded of my own frustratingly poor memory. I have lost track of the number of times over the years that my husband or mother or someone else has asked me "Do you remember . . . ?" only to be answered with my blank and clueless stare. There is just so much that I cannot recall. Rather than detailed stories I seem to have snatches of memories--short little flashes of moments that for whatever reason made an impression and stuck. The same is true when I think back to Christmases past. I can't say that I really remember with any precision my first Christmas as a married woman or any of my children's first Christmases or any particular Christmas growing up (sorry, family--please don't take it personally!). But there are a few images that have stayed with me over the years, so without further ado, here they are:

The feeling of anticipation as my sisters and I tiptoed down the stairs to see what Santa had brought in our big old two-story house in Austin, Texas.

Having my 16-year-old sister prolong my belief in Santa when I was 8 by telling me that when she was 8 she doubted his existence and therefore didn't get a visit that year, nor the Easy Bake oven she had asked for. Hmmm, the year she told me this story I wanted an Easy Bake oven, too.

Being awakened as a teenager on Christmas morning by my father leaning over my bed smiling and brightly announcing "It's Christmas!" Having "matured" beyond the practice of waking up at dawn to see what Santa had brought, I was enjoying sleeping in a little on this Christmas morning. As I look back I realize my dad was longing for the days of the little girl who couldn't wait to get up and start the celebration. I cherish this memory of my dad because he was an alcoholic whose personality would change as the day wore on and he started drinking. I always saw the best of him in the morning.

The first Christmas present my husband ever gave me. We weren't even really dating at the time but were friends. He left the gift on the front seat of my car (I can't remember if it was my normal practice to leave my car unlocked, but hey, in this case I'm glad I did, and anyway, we're talking small town Texas in the 1980s). The gift was a heavy clear glass votive candle holder in the shape of a star. I still have it.

Driving through Texas countryside on Christmas Eve after visiting my parents for a few days. I was newly married and because my husband had to work we could not spend Christmas with our parents (he was a church musician who had to play for services). So I had gone home to spend a few days with my own parents but was now returning to my husband for Christmas. I remember the drive through the country roads of Texas, reflecting on my new life as I looked at all the houses and imagined the preparations that were going on inside each one. I think I still remember this seemingly insignificant event because of the way it redefined for me what it mean to go home for Christmas.

My first Christmas in Illinois after moving with my husband from Texas. He had taken a full-time music position at a Lutheran cathedral in downtown Peoria. It was (and still is) a grand piece of architecture with a world class organ. When we came out of Christmas Eve candlelight worship a little after midnight, a gentle snow was just beginning to fall. This Texas girl felt like she had taken up residence in a Hallmark Christmas card.

Accompanying the Peoria Area Youth Chorus in its appearances on the Civic Chorale Christmas concerts at the Peoria Civic Center in the 1990s. My husband directed the choir and I played the piano. The children were simply phenomenal and typically brought down the house at these well-attended concerts. It was always exciting to perform in such a large venue and before such an appreciative audience. Talk about an ego boost!

Listening to my first and then my second child sing the first stanza of "Once in Royal David's City" a cappella at the beginning of Lessons and Carols. It's beautiful enough to hear the sweet voice of any child singing this hymn, but when it's your very own son or daughter, well . . . . I'm hoping some day child number three will continue the tradition.

Singing "Of the Father's Love Begotten" on Christmas Eve. I don't remember the first time I heard this hymn, but it was in my adulthood after I became a Lutheran. It wasn't long before it became my favorite Christmas hymn, the one that for me sums up and announces our Lord's incarnation like no other and that makes me really feel like Christmas has arrived:

Of the Father's love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be.
He is Alpha and Omega.
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are that have been
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.
Oh, that birth forever blessed,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race,
And the babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.
This is He whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord,
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the long-expected,
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.
O ye heights of heav'n adore Him:
Angel hosts His praises sing,
Pow'rs, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Ev'ry voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.
Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.


Glenda said...

What nice memories Cheryl. I, too, like that hymn and every time it is sung I hear in my head the Kantorei singing it with the bell on their "With Angels and Archangels" cd. Now I need to go play it...

Anonymous said...

It's one of my favorites too. . .the first time I really remember singing it was Christmas morning our first year in Iowa, which would be about when we got that cd. :)

Krazi Ladi - Minnesota said...

You will be happy to know that I will be singing "Of the Father's Love Begotten" on Christmas Eve as one of my solos, also one of my favorties.