This was the first Christmas for Wayne and I as a married couple, so for the weeks leading up to it we talked about what we will do to create lasting traditions. Tradition is such a comforting word in an uncertain world, isn’t it? Yet things didn’t happen as we had hoped. The cold I had from last week continues to steal my voice and morphed into a nasty cough, the kind that leaves my ribs aching, so I’ve been consuming lots of cough syrup, lozenges and medicinal teas. Because of that we obviously needed to forgo a Christmas Eve service, something we really had been looking forward to doing, especially after missing church on Sunday. Yet things turned out in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.
I was exhausted and feeling dejected so we decided we’d watch TV in bed until we fell asleep. Perhaps we’d watch a syrupy Hallmark or Lifetime movie? (Lifetime goes saccharine for the holiday season before returning to the formulaic psycho stalker genre). As I flipped through the channels (there was a time when one actually had to turn ye old channel changer on the TV, not sure what the more up-to-date terminology is) I stopped on Eternal World Television Network which is a Catholic station I sometimes watch if I’m feeling like I need a Church fix. Many would say that Episcopalians are “Catholic Lite.”
A black and white film from the 1950s named “A Star Shall Rise” was just beginning which made me realize we forgot to read “The Shiniest Star” before bed. Wayne’s mother used to read it to him as a child, so when he saw my copy last year he was a little kid once again and we had decided to read it every Christmas Eve.
Suddenly, we became transfixed on the production. Balthazar, one of the Three Kings, seemed so familiar and comforting, but why? When he spoke, I felt relaxed. Wayne and I were clearly present in a way we hadn’t been in a long time. Maybe it was because we both had been so busy and distracted with trying to produce a perfect Christmas? Even though the “special effects” of the star and night sky was rough and rudimentary, its imprint on us was authentic.
About twenty minutes in, I knew why the actor was so familiar. Wayne realized it at the same time and said aloud: “That’s Raymond Burr!”
About four nights a week when I wake up and have trouble falling back asleep I put on Me-TV (all vintage shows) and usually Perry Mason is on at that time. Wayne likes to watch it, too. Now, here we three were again, Raymond Burr delivering the word of God in no uncertain black and white terms. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect-for-us TV messenger!
Next we watched a live Christmas Mass and the sermon could not have been more relevant to us. The priest specifically mentioned the Hallmark Christmas movie factory that pumped out hundreds of storylines with perfect, happy endings. He said that those kinds of unrealistic expectations are a part of the material world and not what Jesus wants for us, nor is it what Christmas is about. I had never considered it in that way; I always thought of the material world as being comprised of what’s tangible. I realized that those traditions we wanted to create were similar to wanting to script the material world into what we think Christmas should be. Yet, what we were doing–spending it together in the presence of God and feeling love and the joy of the birth of Jesus is all we ever really wanted!
However, we will still enjoy to the material things for as long as we can:
My house fireplace in black and white from the 1950s. Photo courtesy of the original owners.
I did a Wishy-inspired display this year.
After my 100 year old Nana passed away she made my aunt vow to continue sending me a Christmas stocking filled with goodies every year. This year my stocking included my favorite mints that Wayne and I first discovered at the magical German gem in the middle of nowhere during our honeymoon!
The lips move! It’s a special 1960s *Magical Motion* card from Hallmark. Of course.
I wasn’t certain if I’d have the energy to make our Christmas dinner later so Wayne said he’d be happy to have it another day. It gave me the idea that with all of life’s uncertainties we certainly should have dessert, chocolate dipped shortbread and vanilla ice cream for breakfast. No arguments were produced against what is now a new tradition.
I did get some bed rest after breakfast which gave me the charge I needed to not have to cancel Christmas dinner.
For the first time I made the Yorkshire pudding with rib roast drippings which created a golden color and rich flavor. The roast was cooked to perfection! We both had an end piece, our favorite.
We hope you all had a Merry Christmas!