And Merry Christmas again

And Merry Christmas again
: It’s 1 in the morning. The beard’s still white, but I’m Santa no more. Duties done. Church over. Morning approaching very quickly.

It was a wonderful night at our little church. Sometimes, everything just goes right. Our early, family service was packed with kids. They gathered up around our associate pastor, Virginia, for her children’s sermon by the creche. They crowded in like a holy mosh pit and then the little ones started storming the stage, they were so fascinated. One of our favorite little girls was answering questions about the Christmas story like an expert and I was proud, because my wife teaches her Sunday school class. The children were darling. Some new folks from the neighborhood came — always good news in a new and growing church.

After dinner and tucking the kids in, I was back at church for the candlelight service of lessons and carols, in which I try my best not to ruin things by hitting the wrong note (at least not so loud that anyone could notice) or reading the wrong words (I rewrote God only a little). Our choirmaster, a high-school choral teacher with the tenor voice of a woodwind, sang an amazing duet with a former student of his. The music went well. Tons of new people from the neighborhood came. I stood at the door at the end and just ended up shaking hands with them all as they left; “Merry Christmases” abounded.

This Christmas snuck up on me; a week ago, I couldn’t believe it was a week away. But this Christmas is turning out nicely.

Those of you who’ve read this space for the last two years (all two of you) know that at emotional cues, I often return to September 11th as a touchstone. Two Christmases ago was so hard. Last Christmas was still difficult. This Christmas, at last, begins to feel like the celebration it is supposed to be. I can’t wait for the morning (and I won’t have to wait long with two kids who’ll beat the sun up).

Merry Christmas, my friends.