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Beginning Christmas

After a long and good Thanksgiving holiday in these parts, our household has embraced the Christmas season. I know some folks are exhausted by the commercialism, but I can’t help but smile this time of year. Our tree went up first and it’s covered with old shiny balls, my kids’ handmade ornaments crafted over the last 10 years, and brand new candy canes. Twinkle lights cover the windows and the shrubs outside and red bows and red flowers are scattered everywhere. All that’s missing is the snow; hopefully it’ll come, heh.

At my 10-year-old daughter’s insistence, we began the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving with A Christmas Story, a film that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. My husband and I were introduced to the film by another couple shortly after we were married (about 20 years ago) and started watching this film every year since. At some point, it also became one of our daughter's favorites, though her five-year-old brother is still making up his mind. Why do we like it so much? Once again, I find that Roger Ebert seems to best articulate the enduring magic of this film much better than I ever could.

While the film focuses mostly on Ralphie’s point of view and experiences, this year I resonated most with the parents. I love how they are flawed yet good, merciful and loving. Heh, we all have our own versions of their battle over the lamp, but I really appreciate how the two of them end up tenderly side-by-side, watching the snow fall through the window that Christmas night. For all their flaws, their steadfast and consistent love for each other and their children is a warm and secure blanket over their home.

And I can’t help but find in that an echo of what we focus on this time of year, a love that blankets us and our world. Last Sunday, our family started reading Luke’s version of Jesus’ birth, which we’ll continue reading each week until Christmas Day. But I think I like how Mark begins his Cliff Notes version better:

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"— "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' —Mark 1:1-3 (NIV)

I like this because it reflects how long God had been working towards saving and restoring this broken world and we broken people, to bring us back into his wide open spaces of grace, love and glory. For me, it speaks to the depth, firmness and steadfastness of his love. It reminds me that it reaches all the way back to the beginning, when all was good and right—and with a promise to make it so again. It reminds me that God’s always been present and working, that his love weaves through his walk with and work in we humans since he blew his breath of life into us even as we stumbled our way through history.

And that fills me with hope and rest. And that makes me smile, too.

Yeah, there’s a lot this time of year that can weary the soul. But not at our house.

So, Merry Christmas and God bless.

(Images: tree, mine; A Christmas Story, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment)