Only a hand full of days till the jolly, old elf makes his annual rounds. I’ve been on the lookout for that special nostalgic feeling ever since I turned the calendar page to December, but until today the magic of the season had eluded me.
Earlier this month I’d expected to find some holiday spirit at my first ladies’ soiree in Mr. C’s posh, suburban neighborhood. It was a get together where neighbors could meet and share holiday cheer. Everything was going well until guests were surprised with a pre-planned presentation by one ‘special’ guest who spoke for nearly an hour about how her chosen religion had changed her life and why we should embrace her specific religion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Jesus-lover myself, but this was a group of multi-cultural women who openly expressed other spiritual practices. Long story short, when the presentation was over, so was the party due to the mass exodus of frustrated participants.
Then, there was the Academy of Russian Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’. It was great fun to see old friends and the performance was lovely. The athletic dancers, ranging from vivacious young Clara, who seemed graceful even in her billowy pink nightie, to the Rat King, who was equally nimble and statuesque in her skin tight body suit, reminded me that I need to work out more. Not quite the Christmas magic I was looking for.
Even finishing up my last minute gift shopping did not ignite my Christmas cheer. The bustling mall shoppers, the blaring carols, the tinsel, the 25% off sales signs … Oh, wait, I haven’t finished my holiday shopping yet! Rats.
Finally, it happened -– the reason for the season came home to me. All it took was an idea, a grocery bag full of empty toilet paper tubes and half a dozen starry-eyed school children.
“What are we making today, Miss Linda?”
I show them the reindeer and the angel I have prepared as examples.
“You can make one like this or you can make whoever you want,” I explain. “You can make a ballerina or Santa or, um, you can even make your mom!”
“You made a ‘your mom’ joke!” giggles a six-year-old boy as he starts working on a red reindeer with a big, blue nose.
His older sister and her girlfriends begin creating a flock of angels, experimenting with various hairstyles for their golden yarn locks.
Eight-year-old Grace announces, after careful consideration, that she wants to make the Virgin Mary.
“Cool,” I encourage her. “I can hardly wait to see her!”
“But, I don’t know how,” she hesitates
“Well, what color dress will she have?” I ask.
I hand her a piece of red construction paper and she makes the dress.
“What color will her face be?” I ask. She chooses pink paper and draws Mary’s face with an intense expression. We’re getting excited now!
“What color yarn do you want for her hair?”
At this point one of the girls making angels exclaims, “Mary does not have black hair. She has brown hair!”
“How do you know that?” I inquire.
“Everybody knows that!” responds another angel-maker.
“I don’t know any such thing,” I challenge, smiling.
“I’ve seen pictures of her and she has brown hair!” replies the boy with the blue-nosed reindeer.
I explain to them that all those pictures were drawn and painted from artists’ imaginations because cameras weren’t invented yet. And, there are no detailed descriptions of what Mary looks like in the Bible. So, Grace can make Mary’s hair whatever color she is inspired to make it. The kids smirk skeptically and turn their attention back to their creations. Remembering the teacher who told her geography class there is no Santa Claus, I wonder briefly if this is akin to her faux pas? Nahhh…
The cheerful, childish banter has died down a bit and every once in a while a head turns to notice what the industrious Grace is doing. She creates Mary and Joseph with black hair, and then moves on to baby Jesus, swaddling him in a scrap of blue fabric. Grace then disappears into another room for a moment, returning with an empty box which she sets up under the flimsy classroom Christmas tree. More heads turn.
As she begins quietly arranging her crèche, the curiosity and admiration of the other kids overcomes their cynicism and they crowd around with their angels and reindeer, all joining together within the manger Grace creates.
“Wow, Grace, you’re a good artist!” Angel-Girl gushes.
The kids play harmoniously with their mishmash of holiday characters in the iconic Christmas scene. Their earlier dispute is forgotten as completely as their lost mittens from this time last year.
Grace looks up at me and beams. “You probably want this for the class art show in January, right?”
“Of course, I do, Grace,” I say, giving her a little hug. “It’s beautiful! You are a very good artist.”
“You can.” Then, she returns to playing happily with her friends.
And, lo the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. Then the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” ~ Luke 2:9-14