This was such a good Christmas. It wouldn't have taken much to make this Christmas better than last, when Ben was recovering from an emergency Christmas Eve appendectomy and I was bitten by the meanest cat ever.
But this Christmas was so lovely. Chaotic, imperfect, absent many traditions that would be fun but that just don't have the time or energy to fulfill (it's hard to leave cookies out for Santa when you don't have a single Christmas cookie in your entire house). But lovely nevertheless. (And lazy. Not a one of us changed out of our pajamas today.)
The days before Christmas were anything but lazy. I spent so much time and energy and - to be completely honest - angst on the family Christmas Eve services, for which I am primarily responsible. They are relatively simple productions, thrown together with two rehearsals and a great deal of parent volunteer support. But they bring out the best and worst of me. The creative part? Yay! The logistics? Oh, brother. This year I'd gotten ever-so-slightly more ambitious, and accordingly, more than ever I didn't think I was going to survive the project.
Both services were great. Beyond great. The kids who participated did so well and all seemed to have fun, and I'm fairly sure it was the most engaging and meaningful service I've organized yet.
I fretted a bit more than usual this year about the church/family balance. While we have a pretty darn egalitarian family over here, that Washington Post article about the pressure women feel to make Christmas "magical" nevertheless hit home for me. As one of my friends who linked to the article on Facebook pointed out, add being clergy to that mix and whoa. It's a recipe to turn December into a guilt extravaganza.
But I realized last night that I've been making some false distinctions. Whenever I start talking about balance, I'm usually making false distinctions. As I've written before, it's integration, not balance, that makes my life work.
All that work I put into the Christmas Eve pageant? It's for my kids, too. Raising my children in a safe, welcoming, and spiritually vibrant congregation is one of my very highest priorities; it's part of what we vowed to do when I baptized them on Christmas Day two years ago. If I were to make a list of all the Christmas activities we could possibly do, the very first and most important thing on that list would be to celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve at church, hearing the sacred stories and worshipping God with our community of faith. And I get to be part of making that experience wonderful for them. That, as Juliette says a lot these days, is awesome.
The moment of my epiphany was when Juliette and I were both standing on the chancel - me, in my role as pastor, her, in her role as an angel. She caught my eye and grinned at me, and I grinned back.