This year, Christmas seems to have come quicker than ever. We are all scrambling, trying to get everything ready, knowing the whole time that we won't actually succeed. As I attempt to refocus on what is really important this season, I am reminded of another Christmas we celebrated where everything went wrong, and yet it is one of my favorite Christmas memories. I wrote this several years ago, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Merry Christmas!
Gold, Frankincense, and Cough Syrup
The night before Christmas is a time of excitement and anticipation, at least it should be. This year was different for the Macy family. There was no excitement, and all we were anticipating was cough syrup and tissues. Sometime during the season of giving, someone gave us the flu. For days we held out hope that the approach of Christmas would magically chase our fevers away, (because Christmas is a time of miracles, you know). But on Christmas Eve, things weren’t looking so good. Mom and Dad decided that we would postpone Christmas until everyone felt better. It was completely logical... but extremely disappointing. So after assuring each other that it was fine and that it really didn’t matter, we crawled into bed and coughed ourselves to sleep.
Morning came and it sure didn’t look like Christmas. The house was a disaster and people were cranky. Glancing around, I began to wonder how we were going to eat. The table had disappeared under a mountain of miscellaneous projects, projects that were supposed to be completed before Christmas. Well, something had to be done. Maybe we couldn’t have Christmas, but we would still eat breakfast as a family. Clearing the table seemed like such a simple job, (it’s not like I was trying to clean the whole house or anything, just the table). Still, I found myself moving at a snail’s pace. Every few minutes, I would sink into a chair, usually without realizing it. Coughing out orders, I began to enlist my siblings' help. “Daniel, take the dishes to the sink. Susanna put the scissors in the drawer. Christiana, help me with these papers…” Even with Mom’s help, it was an hour long process.
Mom was wearing a pretty red sweater and even put on jewelry. She looked very festive and not a bit sick. I decided it wouldn’t take too much effort to change from my old, worn out sweatshirt into a nice (but comfy) sweater. I skipped the jewelry, though. We weren’t the only ones who dressed up. Daniel came out in one of his typical Christmas outfits, a bright green long-sleeved button-up shirt, red swim trunks, and a big goofy grin. He was obviously feeling better.
Some things just aren’t fair. Daniel was the one teasing everyone else as they fell sick, singing, “I’ll be sick for Christmas, you can count on me…” We all felt it was only right that Daniel joined the ranks of the sick two days before Christmas. It’s not that we really wanted him to be miserable, we just thought it was appropriate. But he was the first one back to normal. It wasn’t fair.
For breakfast, Jonathan and Nathan prepared scrambled eggs and turkey bacon. We opened a bottle of juice and a can of pineapple chunks as well. Mom pulled out a red tablecloth and made tea. Although it wasn’t the most elaborate meal, it was delicious. Most of us were feeling slightly better, but we weren’t sure if Josiah would be up to eating. We shouldn’t have worried, even a fever couldn’t diminish his appetite.
After breakfast, we recited Luke chapter two and Susanna completed the nativity scene by placing baby Jesus between Mary and Joseph. Mom wanted to sing Christmas carols, so Jonathan sang while others croaked along. I remained silent because my only other options were attempting to sing, or laughing at the attempts of everyone else. Both hurt too much. We have decided to record a holiday album titled “Christmas Coughs”.
Although we were not planning to exchange presents until later, Jonathan and Nathan decided to hand out theirs anyway. Jonathan’s were wrapped and ready, but Nathan’s had to come out in a pillow-case and a trash bag. We really were excited about our gifts but you would never have known by watching us. I guess Dad felt bad about not having our presents ready, because he offered to give us each something out of our stockings. It was very sweet of him, but we all thought we would prefer to wait for the complete package rather than receive it bit by bit. Well, Mom decided that there was one item that would be very much appreciated right away. So Mom and Dad presented us each with our very own pocket Kleenex packs. I hate to say it, but by the end of the day, we truly were grateful.
While Josiah voluntarily headed for the shower (miracles do happen), the guys decided to try out their gift from Nathan, a poker set. Meanwhile, the girls and Dad opted for Christmas movies. Susanna and I tried to dig out our old musicals, but somehow the boxes in the garage had mysteriously tripled in weight. I soon gave up and we settled for It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a great movie and everyone was enjoying it... until the VHS stopped working. We were left in suspense! Would George Bailey stay with the Building and Loan, or would he throw aside everything his father had lived and died for and work for Mr. Potter instead? Thankfully we weren’t too concerned as we practically have the movie memorized. Still, it would have been nice to finish it.
Turns out the guys' poker game was far more entertaining anyway. Jonathan and Caleb were already out of the game, and Nathan was close behind. Almost hidden from view behind a mountain of poker chips, Daniel wore a puzzled expression on his face. Thirty seconds later, he won. I guess there is such a thing as “beginner’s luck”.
As most of us weren’t very interested in food, we decided to keep it simple for dinner, baked potatoes, and leftover chili. I threw some potatoes in the dishwasher (without soap) and headed for the den to join everyone in watching McHale’s Navy and Mr. Ed on the computer. The picture was jumpy and the sound was out of sync, but other than that it was great.
Using a dishwasher to clean potatoes may sound weird, but it works wonderfully... most of the time. This just happened to be a time when it didn’t. Mom and I quickly scrubbed the potatoes and popped them in the oven. Meanwhile, Caleb was doctoring up the chili with leftover steak that Nathan had prepared for our Christmas Eve dinner. Although it may not have been a traditional Christmas dinner, I enjoyed it and I think everyone else did as well. It is an amazing thing though when a family our size has leftover leftovers.
We all went to bed early that night, (everyone was exhausted from our exciting day). We finally opened presents on December 30th, and on New Year’s Eve, we were given our stockings (minus the Kleenex packs). I guess it was our version of the twelve days of Christmas. Anyway, the wise men didn’t give their gifts either until a little after the birth of Jesus. Maybe this will become a new family tradition (just don’t tell my siblings that I suggested it). Really though, I believe that we truly had a wonderful Christmas full of memories, laughter (although somewhat painful), and miracles.
Now, I know many people don’t believe in miracles, but I am convinced that miracles occur often and come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. For instance, Mr. Kreiger fixing our dryer right before we got sick so we wouldn’t need to borrow our neighbor’s clothesline anymore was a miracle. Nana being understanding and sweet when Mom told her that we couldn’t have her over for Christmas was a miracle. Our stove burner actually working on Christmas day was a miracle. Not running out of toilet paper until the morning after Christmas was a miracle. Josiah voluntarily taking a shower was a definite miracle. But the real miracle was that Christmas happened anyway. Although we didn’t celebrate in a traditional way, it was still Christmas day. There were no stockings, few gifts, we didn’t have a feast or visit with family and friends, and we couldn’t even watch It’s a Wonderful Life, but somehow Christmas came without all that.
When I stop and think about it, I realize that the first Christmas wasn’t how any of us would have planned it either. Far from home and in a stable with animals is probably not how any young mother wants to welcome her son into the world, especially when he is the King of kings, and yet Christmas still happened. Jesus still came to earth in the form of a baby. The angels still announced His birth. The shepherds still praised God. The wise men still followed the star. And Mary was still amazed at the miracle of God’s love. Christmas still came.