Our town lights up its water tower like a hot air balloon. This picture doesn't do it justice. It is a unique beacon of light during the holidays.
“One star, one night, one baby.” Those words really resonated for me and summed up the whole meaning of this season when I heard them last night at our town’s layman’s services. Author Cindy Dagnan was the speaker for the opening night’s program. Although I had been buried in holiday “stuff” all day, the evening was unseasonably warm and I knew I wanted to hear Cindy. I had never heard of her before she spoke at our writer’s guild last fall, but I was pleasantly surprised by a vivacious woman and writer whose enthusiasm for both life and God were infectious.
The layman’s services are a 60 year old tradition in our town and are non-denominational. Each year during the holidays, a quick program of music, prayer, and reflection is offering in the wee morning hours before people go to work. It is a quick touch with the true meaning of Christmas with the first service of the week being held in the evening. Last night’s program was only about 20 minutes long followed by cookies and fellowship if one wanted to stay.
Using Scripture and her razor sharp wit, Cindy zeroed in on all the frustrations of shopping and decorating and then zapped us with a poignant reminder that those things are NOT Christmas. We all know that fact, but oh, how we forget. So there was Cindy, sparkling as tree tinsel, reminding us not to get side-tracked from that Baby’s story.
I was no different than any child those many years ago, I adored Christmas. I distinctly remember gluing cotton ball beards on construction paper Santas and dropping red glitter on a glob of white glue that would become Rudolph’s glowing nose. I loved the music at school, preparing for that yearly Christmas program with the music teacher shrieking at us to get things right. I still hear her screeching, not-so-good violin solo of “Oh Holy Night” that occurred every year to a captive audience of parents who only wanted to see their darlings perform. I haven’t forgotten relatives and in-laws, neighbors and friends who argued and fussed over who got what hour of Christmas Day to “celebrate". I also remember well being pregnant with my babies during Christmas; I always felt extra close to the Mother Mary when I too was “with child”. This year I wait for another baby, a grandson, who will come right after the holidays.
Over the years, people, circumstances, and life have tried to steal my childish wonder from me. I admit that I find age and aging hamper the marvel of Christmas sometimes, but I never want to lose entirely the innocent but comforting glow that comes from pondering the miracle of that special Baby born so long ago. This year I have seen so many people sore, surly, and wounded by disappointment and hurt that it has been hard to stay focused the true meaning of Christmas myself. It sometimes takes extra work to fight sinking into the mire of the distressed world around us.
So today on the Winter Solstice and the darkest day of the year, I am going to remember Cindy’s words last night. “One star, one night, one baby.” She became a star herself, leading us right back to the true meaning of Christmas. No matter what your religious beliefs are, it is fitting and right to be a shining light to others around you in some way, for just one day…or one night. Take the shove or slight with grace, drive past the parking spot hog with a grin, toss a coin in a kettle, call a shut-in, or merely step out into the crowd with a beaming smile. The smile you give may save your own; it is the true meaning of Christmas.