Reverend G’s Christmas

Some of my readers have wondered what Reverend G does for Christmas. So I asked her, and she said:

“Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays, and even with my Alzheimer’s I remember so many past memories. My beloved Jacob in his Lone Ranger pajamas, tearing into his presents and so excited to find a toy replica of Silver. He ran all over the house shouting, “Hi- ho, Silver…Away.” The neighbors probably wondered how a minister raised such a wild kid.

The orange slices I piled into Jacob’s stocking, knowing that in a couple of months we would visit Mort, the town dentist and hear him say, “Reverend G, I’ll bet this boy of yours has been eatin’ more of them orange slices. Worst dang things for teeth.”

Of course, as a minister, my first priority was to make sure my parishioners understood the beauty and meaning behind Christmas. I worked for weeks on those sermons, and always surprised my congregation with a message about some of the more unknown characters. One year, I preached about the shepherds.

‘Did you know, folks, that these same shepherds watched over the flock of sheep that were used in the temple sacrifices? Imagine that! These men and probably some of their sons heard the angels in heaven proclaim the news about Jesus. These shepherds, who guarded the sacrificial lambs, were the first to come and worship the Lamb of God.’

But as sweet as those memories, the present Christmas with my loved ones may prove to be one of the best. I still know all their faces and names as we sit in my living room, exchanging gifts and listening to Bing Crosby sing ‘White Christmas’ once again.

In the years to come, this stupid Alzheimer’s will steal my loved ones away from me. Christmas will be just another day on the calendar as I wait to die.

Oh God, oh God. Help me enjoy my loved ones now. Cache every memory of their faces, their smells, their voices into the deepest caverns of my soul. My brain might fail me, but let my heart always carry love for Jacob, Jessie, Chris and my blessed grandchild.

We watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Chris and I danced around the living room while the TV George and Mary jigged the Charleston in the high school gym. Jessie cried when George Bailey found his way home and embraced his children after that infernal newel post came loose again.

Jacob sat on the sofa and petted Gabriel. Jacob is more into ‘The Grinch Stole Christmas.’ He doesn’t like sentimental movies, although I’ve seen his eyes mist over when Cindy Lou Who peeks around the corner at the Santa Grinch.

Thankfully, Gabriel stayed in my apartment during Christmas week. Nobody transferred to heaven, so he didn’t have to work. You know, of course, about Gabriel and his special gift if you’ve read the book. You have read the book, right? ‘The Unraveling of Reverend G?’

Anyway, Jacob and Jessie gave me a new angel ornament to hang on my tree, the little tree that Chris and I decorated one afternoon. Then Chris and I put the nativity characters together while Jacob set up the little hand-made stable. I think one of my parishioners made that for me years ago. Can’t remember which one, but that doesn’t matter now. God knows who it was, and someday He’ll make sure that person receives a special thank you.

nativity sceneThe funniest thing, though. Gabriel really loves the ceramic Baby Jesus. He leaves all the other characters alone, but he keeps carting off Baby Jesus. I walked into the living room and there were the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph – all staring into an empty manger. Gabriel scarfed the baby again.

So I searched under the sofa, under my bed, even in the litter box (gross!). Usually I find Baby Jesus in some of Gabriel’s favorite places – in a corner of the sofa, on the window seat where the sun is warmest, even next to Gabriel’s water dish. I guess he wants Baby Jesus to stay close to him and share his favorite parts of life.

Maybe that’s what we all need to do at Christmas and throughout the year. Let Jesus share in the favorite parts of our lives. We seem to always invite Him to share our sorrows, because it makes us feel better to have Him with us.

But I think He likes to laugh with us, enjoy a warm beam of sunshine or a soft corner on the sofa. I think Jesus just wants to hang out with us.”

Hope Wrapped in a Tree

I didn’t get the tree, even though I prayed hard and believed it would be mine.

Several years ago, I participated in one of those home tours where beautiful and historic houses are decorated by members of the Junior Service League as a fund-raising activity.

One of the houses sent me into covet mode. From the moment I entered, I knew this was my kind of house. In fact, I knew the owners. They were members of my church – the perfect family, the perfect couple. Tall, thin and both of them professors at the local college. I envied not only their house, but also their life together. I wanted my life to be that content, and I desperately wanted to live in their house.

I know – we’re not supposed to covet our neighbor’s house. But on that particular Christmas season, I did it anyway.

The entrance opened into a large living room – on the right, a Mission style staircase leading to the upper floor which had one entire wall of bookshelves filled with all sorts of books.

To the left of the living room stood a grand piano – one of my life-long dreams. The master bedroom had its own fireplace and an expansive window that opened to the back forested area filled with various Kansas-style trees and salt licks for the deer.

To the right of the staircase lay the room I coveted most – a study with a desk, windows on the north and the east, the perfect place to write. I could see myself writing there – actually envisioned myself at that desk, watching the morning sunrise turn from pink to coral to turquoise as I pecked away on my laptop. A love seat perched against the opposite wall, a place to sit and edit and think about the next chapter. Oh, my!

Off the study was an incredible kitchen / dining area / family room with a massive stone fireplace and a mantel that held all the stockings for this happy family. A mudroom led to the garage area, but on the west side – patio doors opened onto the deck.

Then I saw the tree. The owners cut down a small pine and loaded it with bird seed ornaments and treats for outside treesquirrels and deer. Such a beautiful way to celebrate the outdoors and feed God’s creatures, and I vowed to myself that someday I would do the same – erect an outdoor Christmas tree for the animals.

So when I entered a bookstore that was liquidating its assets and saw the metal spiral Christmas tree – I knew it was mine. Finally, I would put a tree on my deck and fill it with bird seed ornaments, bread crumb stars and peanut butter-slathered bagels for all the little animals.

But at $40, it was too expensive. I asked the owner, “Would you possibly take $20?”

“No, because I’m trying to make as much as possible on this liquidation. But come back closer to Christmas and we’ll talk again.”

So I went home, made plans for that tree and prayed. I knew it was supposed to be mine. I felt joy and anticipation as I imagined it on my deck. It gave me hope that even though I did not have the perfect happy family nor that beautiful house with the grand piano or the absolutely wonderful writing study – I could at least have the tree outside.

So I went back this week, to negotiate again with the owner and discovered that the tree was gone. Someone paid the full price and took it away. I drove home dejected, crying through the blur of Christmas lights.

But God said, “Don’t give up.”

“What does that mean, God? The tree is gone. It was perfect and there aren’t any others. What do you mean, ‘Don’t give up?’”

I think he meant that hope isn’t just centered on a replica of a dream, on a metal tree that represents somebody else’s life. Hope is focused on the actual dream and on living the life of that dream.

Maybe there is another tree somewhere for my outdoor friends and a house in the country with the perfect writing study, a grand piano and a wall of books. Maybe there is another life for me that includes happiness, peace and love.

I will leave it up to God and stay in hope, because that is the best place to be.