Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Eager Anticipation of Christmas

I've finished my teaching for 2012 and I am on holidays.  I can now totally focus on Christmas.  My students always help launch me into the last minute Christmas rush and spirit with their performances of the various Christmas songs and spiritual carols.  This year was no different except in the vast contrast of my thoughts and personal feelings.  Last year I was scared, distracted and wondering if I would ever make the next Christmas season or hear my students play again.  On Thursday, I often had to blink the moisture of joy from my eyes as I listened to the students perform and they filled my heart with warmth.

I am full of thankfulness, love and appreciation of my faith.  God carried me through the last year as in a very quick fashion, I underwent diagnostic tests, received a diagnosis and then immediately started and completed the chemotherapy.  The first six months of 2012 flew by and are a blur as well as hazy with memory.  I have randomly read previous posts of my blog and cannot read it very much as it brings back all the fear, anxiety and ill feelings I experienced.  I mention all this because it helps explain my extra special feelings of joy and love this Christmas season.

As I've rushed to get my Christmas shopping completed throughout the last week, I've felt the joy and happiness at the anticipated giving of the gifts.  I've always had more fun giving and watching my friends' and family's reactions in opening the presents.  Gift giving, for me, is an extension of my love and symbolizes the giving of the gift of Jesus in the manger to humanity.  I love the manger scenes that I've seen in the stores or in front of people's private homes.  As I've mentioned before, I find I am filled with peace and tranquility when I take time to look at and contemplate my own nativity scene in my home.  The stable was made many years ago by a very good friend.  He installed a yellow light bulb in it which bathes the animals, kings, Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus in his manger in a soft light.  It helps me imagine the muted light and darkness that would have been in the original stable in Bethlehem.

As I prepare for Christmas Day in the next few days, I am filled with the HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE of the Advent season.  Today, I hope to bake my great-grandmother's sugar cookies.  Christmas just doesn't feel the same without them.  I've had them every year since I can remember.  My grandmother used to make them, my mother (who didn't bake often) made them every year and I have continued the tradition of making them every year.  My children have always had them available to them throughout Advent and Christmas.  I did get them made last year before I found out there was anything wrong with me.  This year, I'm late making them because of the recognition of having less energy than other years...or maybe just taking care of myself and not pushing myself to the utmost limits.  So baking the sugar cookies is on my list.  I'm also hoping to make batches of peanut brittle which is another tradition in my immediate family for the last number of years.  Then I will be baking my grandmother's cinnamon rolls.  As a child growing up, this was not a staple of Christmas time.  My grandmother made them throughout the year.  But many, many years ago, I made a batch of cinnamon rolls for a family which we lived near and we became good friends.  This is the same friends where the father/husband made my stable for me.  Anyway, the baking of cinnamon rolls became associated with Christmas, although I and my daughter still make them throughout the year.  I will make them again this year for Christmas so that we can have cinnamon rolls as part of our Christmas morning when we wake up.  If I don't get the cinnamon rolls made today, they will be made either tomorrow or Monday.

I do not enjoy the rush of the last minute shopping crowds.  I find that people are too rushed and busy.  They become irritable, impatient and rude.  So I finished my Christmas shopping and grocery shopping yesterday.  I'm ready for Christmas!  I have that excited feeling I used to get as a child.  My favourite Christmas album is  playing in the background as I write this post.  I have listened to Anne Murray's Christmas Wishes album every year multiple times since I was a teenager.  I originally had it as a cassette tape and I wore it out from playing it so much.  A few years ago, my husband found the same album on CD and that was his Christmas present to me that year.  I love the song/carol selections and the harmonies.  I have always played it with the volume up and adding my own harmonies as I sang along.  This year, I'm not singing along with the music but I'm very settled with that.  I love hearing her beautiful rich voice singing the music that I cannot sing this year.

Back to the excited anticipation I'm feeling this year.  It is almost a childlike, magical feeling.  It would be that exact feeling except that I do find my emotions are close to surface and as a result tears are often close to the surface as well.  Something very tender is apparent in me this year.  I daresay it is the renewal of life and love.  The recognition of how fleeting a life can be and how precious these special times are.  This year I have enjoyed seeing the "real" Santa Claus at the local mall.  He is so warm and caring with the children and the adults.  He has the real beard and his eyes twinkle.  He remembers me from when our own children used to come to visit him.  I remember we saw him in the mall one year and he was in ordinary street clothes.  My children recognized him and excitedly told me "There's Santa!!"  He looked at us as he walked by in his jeans, boots, ordinary jacket and ball cap on his head.  He winked at all of us and gave us a full smile along with his twinkling eyes.  Jumping ahead to current days, I was at the mall one night this past week and Santa looked up and waved at my husband and I.  He's the real Santa Claus.  The magical and especially spiritual season of Christmas is in full swing.  So as I finish up my baking, it helps me to focus on past, present and future Christmases.  As I bake the traditional cookies of my family, I feel my great-grandmother and my grandmother standing beside me.  As I prepare for my daughter's birthday on Christmas Day, I hope that I'm able to create wonderful, warm memories for my children to carry in their hearts for many, many years to come.  People often ask me how do we keep my daughter's birthday separate from Christmas when she was born on December 25.  We typically wake up on Christmas morning and have coffee, chocolate milk, cinnamon rolls and a Swedish coffee ring as we sit near the Christmas tree and open up our various Christmas presents.  At lunch, we have a finger food luncheon involving all my daughter's favourite finger foods.  I also make her favourite punch which is then out for the rest of the afternoon.  After lunch which includes my daughter's birthday cake, she opens her birthday cards and presents up in our living room away from the Christmas tree.  We have our Christmas turkey dinner later in the day.

I'm looking forward to the church service tomorrow morning which celebrates the last week of Advent with the lighting of the candle of LOVE.  I'm also looking forward to the quiet, serene and tranquil Christmas Eve late evening communion service where the traditional carols will be sung.  I love the eager anticipation of Christmas just as much as the special events of Christmas Day!

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