Few things could be as beautiful as the darkened sanctuary at Grace Lutheran Church on Christmas Eve when candles are lit and held by every member of the congregation and "Silent Night" is sung.
Something special happens when Christians celebrate the peace of Christmas, the birth of the baby Jesus.
It's easy to get caught up in the search for gifts, to buy bigger presents each year because bigger always seems better. Soon, however, Christmas becomes a "have to" instead of a "get to." You have to get the shopping done, the dinner planned, the house decorated. You don't get to sit back and relax, join friends for a long lunch or cut back on greenery and ribbon.
Stress starts to bite you right where you sit.
I've had that handled this year, much to the dismay of my friend Mary Guddall. So much stuff happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I didn't even put up a Christmas tree. Not even the tiny little tree Dee Coleman gave me last time I fell into this predicament.
So, Mary and Maxine Vandiver and I met for a long lunch a few weeks ago and Mary said she'd cut back on the number of trees she put up, ending up with 10 or 12. She couldn't exactly remember.
"Geez, I haven't got one tree up," I confessed.
The look on Mary's face married horror, shock and disbelief. The kind of look no one could possibly produce on command.
It's not real nice, I know, to laugh at such distress, but you couldn't help but laugh at that look. Gracious lady that she is, she didn't even reprimand me for such slothfulness, but the subject changed abruptly.
Sometimes you've just got to do things your own way. That's how I'm headed into the new year.
My way started, really, after I retired and had no reason to get up early. I don't like to get up early. Never have, never will. I like being up at night when most of the world sleeps - it makes me feel as if I know something other people don't. I know I've told you that before. It's in my Top 5 Things to Do With My Life, and I've got a good handle on it.
Also with top billing, Doing for Others generally comes up short. It shouldn't. I don't mean it to happen, but no matter the plan, it's easy to ignore the process. I start off strong in January. It's a new year, after all. My birthday is early in the month, my hopes and plans still strong on my mind. Soon it's the middle of the month and I've done nothing useful for others.
I blame Russ Bode. His birthday is Jan. 18. There's no reason to blame him, but a person has to have someone to take the fall, and his birthday coincides with the time I realize I'm already losing my bid to be nice. That has to be someone's fault. Someone not me.
Man, I've got to work on this.
So long friends, until the next time when we're together.
Sandy Mickelson, retired lifestyle editor of The Messenger, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.