This year we had a choice of services to attend for Christmas Eve. There was a 4, 5:30, and 7:00 service. I jumped at the 4:00 service. That way, I reasoned, we could be home in time for dinner, and could ship the children off to bed at a decent hour, so Santa’s merry elves could begin wrapping the presents.
I indeed said “begin.” As in, I hadn’t wrapped a single present prior to Christmas Eve. In fact, I hadn’t even gathered the presents together from various hiding spots throughout the house. Hiding spots that were so elusive, I still cannot find a few of the gifts. Which I’m sure will make wonderful Easter presents.
My sad excuse this year was that it would do no good to place any wrapped presents underneath the tree. It was difficult enough keeping the tree righted. And because, when Jensen wasn’t using me as his parking garage, the Barbie cars have been positioned under the Christmas tree since Thanksgiving. Giving the tree a festive appeal, that only gridlock can bring.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
A 4:00 service seemed like a wonderful idea to us. And evidently to the 1200 other service attendees. I believe our church seats 900 comfortably. And we were late. Thereby relegated to the back of the church in the folding chairs. We separated upon arrival, knowing Jensen would never make it through service without injuring someone. The Nursery is high on his list of places he absolutely refuses to be left in. Which narrowed the playing field down to the cry room. A 4×10 darkened room that holds about 5 folding chairs. And that’s all. We affectionately refer to it as hell. Or Purgatory.
Fiddledaddy graciously volunteered to wrangle Jensen in
hell the cry room, while I took the girls into service. We were greeted at the door by an usher who handed my daughters’ each a candle. A real candle. With a wick and a cardboard cutout to apparently catch the wax. Should the candle find fire. Allrightythen. I was hoping this was just for affect. A prop. Not meant to be lit. On fire.
We found our place among all the other sardines, and their offspring. The service was wonderful. I was very much drawn into the message of the baby Jesus, the beautiful music singing praises to Our Lord, and the wonder of the miracle of Christmas. And how that small baby in a manger was the greatest gift I’ll ever receive. I forgot about my claustrophobia. I even forgot that my 6 and 8 year old daughters were holding an unlit candle.
Until the singers began a song titled “Light A Candle.” Oh dear Lord God in heaven. No, I silently prayed. Then I watched as the singers did indeed light their candles, and come down the crowded aisles to light the candles of the attendees in the audience. And they came all the way to the back of the nosebleed section. Emme immediately sensed clear and present danger, and handed her unlit candle to me. That’s my cautious girl. Cailey, who is deathly afraid of fire and has recurrent nightmares about her favorite doll, Zoe, burning to nothing but orange cinders, held onto her candle with both chubby hands. In a death grip. I couldn’t have wrestled it from her if I tried. I looked down at her, standing there in her highly flammable taffeta and tulle dress. And I prayed a little prayer.
“Dear God. Please help her to focus, and not burst into flames. Amen.”
If you’ll recall from a previous post, and from my upbringing in the Catholic church, a short burst of prayer is called an “ejaculation.”
I’m not making that up.
I hovered over her, ready to sacrifice myself by throwing my body on her to smother the flames. Not taking into account that I was sporting quite a lot of polyester myself. Also highly flammable. She couldn’t take her eyes off the flickering flame. She was mesmerized. Strangely drawn to that which she so greatly feared. And which is forbidden. Let’s just call that SIN NATURE shall we? Something that I know nothing about. Ahem. (Sidestepping that bolt of lightening.) At the end of the song, I let out a rather large exhale. Extinguishing the flame.
“MOM, I WANTED TO BLOW IT OUT,” just as the church quieted for one last prayer.
Which was mine.
Thank you for the gift of your precious Son. And thank you for the gift of my sweet husband and three children. And that my daughter didn’t burn down the church. And that I didn’t have to ruin my perfectly good polyester pant suit. With the elastic waist.