The Christmas Spirit

The boys LOVE making Christmas cookies. Me, not so much. I even debated whether or not to make them this year. It felt like so much work. There is also the inevitable monstrous mess my young chefs make. I remember finding sprinkles in the house for days, maybe even weeks, after cookie decorating in the past. Then I remembered that the tradition was a part of making memories with my little loves and not just desensitization therapy for a former neurotic, type A woman.

I was getting convinced it was worth it when I saw how excited the boys were. I thought I would take it up a notch and try a fancier sugar cookie recipe. It was a disaster. Darn you, Martha Stewart! My lack of desire almost won out after that crumbly mess. But then I looked at my precious disappointed boys and forced a second wind. It was back to the tried and true Better Homes recipe.

Ethan: "This (non-fancy) recipe is 800 times better."

Ethan: “This (non-fancy) recipe is 800 times better.”

In the process, there were fights, major battles over who pours what ingredients when. There was whining. There was epic hoarding of cookie cutters. The cookie cutter battle included fierce screams and cries. It was completely ironic that the Boys Choir of Harlem was singing “O Holy Night” in the background. Even though I was the adult, I was not without my own contribution to the irony. “Don’t make a mess! Not that way, like this! Stop whining! Stop fighting!”

Deep breath. I reminded the boys (and myself) of the spirit of Christmas. It almost became another mantra. Me, aka expert lecturer: “What is Christmas about?” Connor: “Love.” Ethan, trying not to say it in a whiney voice (“trying” is a Grand Canyon stretch): “Sharing.” We talked of how it is about giving and love: Love coming down and making the world a better place. So we try to do the same, especially during the holidays: make the world a better place. Somewhere in there Connor added “Respect” to the mantra. I was not sure that it fit with our story, but any time I can make Aretha Franklin proud and heard, I will.

IMG_2035

Ethan awaits with eager anticipation

By the time Sarah McLachlan was singing “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” the boys were finally leaving the irony behind and appropriately ended their warring ways. It WAS hard work. We DID make a huge (HUGE!) mess. But the desensitization is working. I decorated, too, but let them do as many as they wanted in whatever crazy creative ways they chose even when frosting got all over their shirts and I heard avalanches of nonpareils falling all over the floor.

Connor has his game face on.

Connor has his game face on.

They each chose their favorites to keep for themselves. Then we divided some up for each next door neighbor, some for Mike and myself, and the rest for the women at Maya’s Place where I volunteer. They were yummy. In fact, the ones the boys decorated that had frosting explosions and Pollack-esque layers of crystals and sprinkles tasted the best. We enjoyed eating them. And we really enjoyed sharing them. I suppose next year when my Scrooge attempts to take over, I will try (really try, not Ethan-try) to remember this and allow the spirit of Christmas to prevail.

IMG_2042Christmas is coming. I want to honor its spirit. It is enjoying the blessing of giving gifts to delight those who receive them. It is NOT about over-consumerism. It is remembering why we celebrate it: Jesus, God coming to be with us. It is NOT about forcing our CHRISTmas upon the world as if we are persecuted and oppressed. (If that is what persecution and oppression look like to you, I will buy you a one way ticket abroad.) It is about the least of these, the ones whom Jesus would have been able to relate to because they are the very reason He came. It is NOT about labeling them, distancing from them, hating them, neglecting them or making them an annual charity case.

Immanuel. God with us. He came not to hand us a toy we wanted but to BE with us, to relate to us, to love us. I see this not necessarily in church but in places where there are no church-goers. I see it in the people who do not know Him, but are Him in the ways they help the formerly incarcerated, drug-addicted, sometimes prostitutes, mothers who have lost custody of their children have a second chance. I see it in the women who are getting that second chance and successfully starting their first job out of jail or taking care of their case manager’s dinner on a night of crisis or openly letting a new volunteer sit in on their private group session. The spirit of Christmas is everywhere, and I love finding it in what might seem like the least likely of places. But it is in fact the most holy of them all.

Merry Christmas. May your cookies be horribly over frosted. In the same vein, may your love know no bounds. This is the spirit of the season.

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