... and there are some AWESOME Hallmark movies!
I'll admit it I'm a sucker for Hallmark Christmas movies. Last year I think I figured out that the reason Hallmark movies are so wonderful is because they are soooooo unrealistic. I mean really, think about it, there is no stress from everybody needing to be pleased by having everybody around on 'the day.' One side of the story always has a horrible tragedy, their side of the stress has been removed by a death or abandonment or something. Nobody has stress from having to find the perfect gift; as it is always there, and all the shoppers are in a festive mood, polite respectful, helpful, and joyful. (I was out yesterday and that was SOOO not the case!) The small rural town is always saved, the jobless find a job and the hungry are fed and it all goes on and on. Don't get me wrong, if that happened in reality it would be wonderful and the world would be a better place because of it. But it's not real. Reality is stress from the commercialization of it, the stress of having to be everywhere, rude shoppers, an oven that dies while trying to make chex party mix, (yes this happened to us this year) not being able to do something for a loved one because it is just out of reach financially and you are dedicated to making your financial plan work ; which in the long run will ultimately be worth it. Reality is the lack of joy and hope because they are looking for it in the wrong place. It's not found in a store or under a tree. It can be hard to keep the Reason for the season in focus sometimes and in my opinion there is nothing better to celebrate. But as I've said before, it's really about perspective. You can get caught up in the worldliness of it or you can follow the Example of giving.
My sister and I went out yesterday and had a grand time, yes, we were Christmas shopping, but unlike fellow shoppers, we were laughing, giggling and generally speaking, thoroughly enjoying the day. We both love the feeling of Christmas and she enjoys Christmas the way more people should, the way you do as a child. We both love giving at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas, you see, neither of us look for joy or happiness under the tree. Last night we were shopping/laughing and having a great time but needed a drink, laughing is hard work, apparently. So we headed to Starbucks, I got an iced tea and she a mocha something, so we stood there drinking and thinking and talking a young serviceman walked into the lobby and up to the counter. He was carrying a itty bitty car seat all decked out in pink and had a pink diaper bag slung across his chest like it was his M-16. Proud and capable. I stood there for a minute looking at this young man and thought, 'He is exactly who I want defending our great nation.' The strong, quiet, confidence that this young man had said to me he was confident in himself and his abilities to not only guard our nation but would lay down his life for his child...
...as well as mine.
He guarded his daughter proudly and confidently and I was humbled. He pondered his order, placed it and was setting his daughter down to reach for his wallet as I was placing the cash on the counter to pay for his order. He looked at me, shocked that a stranger would do that, a look I returned in admiration. He said to me "Thank you." "No," I said, "Thank you." I smiled and walked away. Now I'm not telling you this to toot my own horn, but to make a point. If I'd been so caught up in the worldliness of the season I would have missed the opportunity to follow the Example of giving, to rail against society's selfishness, to create a Hallmark reality.
Yesterday was exactly what I needed to experience to snap me out of the worldly funk I'd been in; having allowed myself to be sucked in by it; to prepare me for tonight.
I was out making a delivery with my children this afternoon and saw lots of paper bags lining the road leading up to the church. It's the quintessential 'Hallmark' church, very stately with a huge white steeple, swinging french doors in the front, stained glass windows, archways, the works. It's really a beautiful church, not the place I worship, but still beautiful. At first I just thought is was trash, but as I looked up the road I realized it was luminaries lighting the road to the church, they were just being set out to be lit later. I drove past the church and headed down the other side of the hill. Luminaries on that side too. I thought it was a great idea and would look very beautiful after being lit. On the way back from delivery, my children noticed the church was having a candlelight service tonight and asked if we could go. I thought about it for a second and said yes, probably we could. So we made it home and went on about our day, about 6pm we started to get ready, I decided to walk to the church because we live well within walking distance. At 6:30 we; bundled in hats, scarves, boots, jackets, mittens, flashlight, lantern and headlamp; headed out to the service. The moon was nearly full and it was a near cloudless winter sky so the moonlight was reflecting brilliantly on the recent snow which was squeaking beneath our feet as we strolled along. The kids and I walked along our quiet country lane, past the little brook that hasn't quiet frozen solid yet so it bubbled happily in the moonlight, past our neighbors homes where soft light poured through the windows and woodsmoke billowed out the chimneys. We walked along the path through the woods that lead to the church and could see the lights from the stained glass windows and steeple through trees guiding us along. We talked about what a wonderful time we were having and how old fashioned it was.
We walked through the parking lot and saw the luminaries lining the road, saw some of our friends and neighbors heading into the church and stepped across the road to take it all in. (And take pictures of course, but I'll try to post them tomorrow, I cannot upload pics onto this computer.) It was beautiful. We walked back across the road, inside the church foyer, was greeted by a neighbor and headed upstairs to the sanctuary. There were evergreen boughs everywhere, candles flickering in the windows and the pipe organ was pumping out Christmas carols. We found a seat in the old wooden pews, and looked around and waved to friends and neighbors and smiled to those we don't know yet. The service started and was really beautiful.
There is something to be said for worshiping in an extraordinarily beautiful place. So many of the churches that are being built today lack the ornate details and beauty like the old churches are famous for and that make it a fitting place to worship at and I find this trend sad.
I have always loved Christmas candlelight services and went as soon as I was old enough to drive and breaking a family tradition. I've never regretted it. Tonight was no exception. I sat there listening to a version of 'The Holly and the Ivy' being sung by an angel I'm certain. She also played the violin while her dad played the guitar. I have a video too, I cannot wait to share it if it came out well. It was dimly lit, so I'm not sure. After the service ended, we were offered refreshments in the lower part of the church, Andrew was all about this for sure. And Faith wanted to see the violinist. They had a nice spread of crackers and cheese, cookies, and sweets and offered coffee and mulled cider, which was a nice treat before stepping out into the chilly winter evening after chatting with fellow service goers.
We stayed a bit despite the fact we had barn chores to do and it was past bedtime, we stayed because we could and because the fellowship was wonderful and because it was nice to have had my focus redirected to what matters.
Faith and Andrew and I all walked home in the cold, winter, moonlight air and not even Hallmark could have made a more splendid evening, because this was real.