It's been quite a Christmas season for us already. We got started early by being in Branson the first week of November where, among other Christmasy things, we attended a play called "A Christmas Snow," went to the Christmas concert of the Lennon Sisters, and enjoyed the lovely Christmas lights and decorations that were all around town. We celebrated our 40th anniversary there and had two long and very pleasant visits with my Aunt Farris and some of my Ellsworth cousins. We plan on going back again next November (if not before) and hope that we could make it a family reunion.
During the rest of November, we found a few times to listen to Christmas music and our annual Autumn Getaway with our book club down in Nebraska City was full of Christmas too. But once December came round, we really hit our stride. We put together a couple of Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzles, started planning our parties and "Santa runs," and Claire re-did our home's interior. Its regular look (quite lovely in its own right) was transformed once again into a Christmas wonderland. Ribbons, wreaths, nativity sets, lights, the two big Christmas trees, the Christmas throws and pillows, the Saint Nicholas artifacts, the poinsettias, the snow globes, the holly, the reindeer, the framed puzzles, the posters from the Georgetown Christmas Festival, the candles...I could go on. Claire always does a splendid job in making our house the most Christmasy place south of the North Pole. It is, for many of our guests, literally breathtaking to walk around in here.
Outside we are much more restrained but there are lights on the pine tree, wreaths on each of the silver maples and another on the garage, and the nativity set is in the yard. And speaking of restraint, we haven't had quite as many Christmas dinner parties as some years. For Christmas 2011 we have hosted only 6 dinner parties, three luncheons, and Claire's Christmas tea for the girls in her family. But we still have 4 more dinner parties to go. And besides those, we have two luncheons and a whole lot of "Santa runs." And, of course, we don't worry about anything being outdated because we celebrate all 12 Days of Christmas -- and Epiphany too!
It would be convenient if we could just take off all of December in order to fit Christmas in (!) but alas, we can't do that. So all of our activities have to be fitted in amid our hectic Vital Signs Ministries duties. But there is some crossover as in putting a Christmas spin on our quarterly Governing Board meeting or in selecting Christmas topics for December's sermons, adult Sunday school class and other speaking engagements.
But the most important way in which we incorporated Christmas into Vital Signs work was in making the December edition of "When Swing Was King" into a Christmas program. It was big band and classic crooners as usual and the places we showed it were the same nursing homes and assisted living facilities but the Christmas version is definitely different. More visually stunning. More emotional. And more popular than any edition we do. The repertoire includes festive favorites like Duke Ellington's "Jingle Bells," Woody Herman's "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town,' and Judy Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" as well as some of the most profound carols: "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem" by Frank Sinatra, "Silent Night" by the Glen Miller Orchestra, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Perry Como and "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" by the Guy Lombardo Orchestra.
We presented it 16 times! And number 17 will be tomorrow morning in the Sunday school hour at Faith Bible Church. (9-10, if you're interested.)
Other Christmasy activities for us? Singing Christmas carols with friends at the abortion clinic (spiritual warfare as we "join the triumph of the skies")...Attending "Holiday Under Glass" at the Joslyn Art Museum which featured lunch and performances by different choirs from Central High School...Watching Christmas movies...Reading Christmas poetry and stories...Having breakfast at the Boy's Town cafeteria and browsing through their gift shop...Adding a bit of Christmas flavor to our December book club meeting...And a little (very little, actually) Christmas shopping.
And then there's tomorrow. Christmas Day One will start with the "When Swing Was King" presentation at church followed by my fourth and last sermon in a Christmas series. We will then return home to prepare Christmas supper by 6 o'clock for Claire, myself and 17 guests. On the menu will be ham, fried chicken, bourmassa (an African meat dish), sweet potato casserole, corn with red peppers, green bean casserole, molded jello with apples, panettone (Italian Christmas bread), pineapple & cottage cheese fluff, and for dessert, a variety of Claire's Christmas cookies and ice cream with plenty of toppings to make sundaes. After the meal there will be hot drinks, some African Christmas music provided by our guests, and warm-hearted conversation into the night.
And then what? Well, like I said earlier, we will still have plenty of Christmas packed into our calendar even though we will also be back at work on Monday. And we certainly will be praying that all of you have a wonderful Christmas too -- Day One and beyond.
Much love to all...
Denny & Claire