Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I confess that I don't attend too many holiday parties. I would say it's because of my hectic schedule, but I know folks that attend three or four parties a night and still have time and energy to go to work, spend time with their families, and be productive citizens. So I guess I have no excuse.

But I do have some parties and gatherings under my belt, each one providing fun and meaningful memories. I don't always have detailed recollections, but more like snapshots of events.

Sunday School Move. I don't remember if I was in middle school or high school, but our small Sunday School class held our own Christmas party during class time. We had refreshments and music and a gift exchange. I liked Sunday School because it was one of the few places where the popular and the unpopular hung out together. And the holidays, with preparations for Christmas programs and caroling, were especially fun.

When we exchanged gifts, I received a model kit of a German roadster.  I laughed and said, "That's funny. At the school gift exchange, I got a model kit of a German bi-plane.  I wonder what it means?"

Without planning, the whole class said, "you should move to Germany." It was a funny moment that always sticks out in my mind (and yes, they were teasing).

Bible Study at Pastor's House. Back in Colorado, our Wednesday afternoon Bible Study moved to the Pastor's house on the week of Christmas for a special gathering (the Pastor in this case was me). We enjoyed treats, relaxed, shared, had a short, informal study, and just enjoyed each other's company.

Candlelight Fellowship. Our church in California rented a facility for Sunday Morning Services, so our other weekly gatherings were in homes. So, as expected, it was a tight fit for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service. But what we lacked in space, we made up for in fellowship. It was a party, really, with guests bringing refreshments, sharing, and laughing. We just sort of blended into the service, with music, Scripture, and then the candlelight ceremony (accompanied by Evie's "A Thousand Candles"). It was a time of love and warmth.

Day Care parties. Our church operated a day care center for a number of years. At Christmas, we came together to eat a meal, share treats, and exchange presents. Two things stand out about these parties: 1) The laughter. The stress and difficulties of the week seemed to vanish as we shared our stories and broke out in glee over the smallest things.  2) Jazz Choir. The local high school had a special group of singers that toured local businesses and events. We tried to make it a point to invite them each year to sing for us. To this day, when I think of "Santa Baby," I think of the Jazz Choir.

I haven't been to a lot of parties, but I've been to enough to have had a lot of fun. May you enjoy your own set of memories as you gather with friends, family, and co-workers to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I have a lot of special Christmas memories. Some are very detailed and specific. Others are like quick photographs, out-of-context images embedded in my mind.

Several of these "pictures" involve travel. During my college days, I went back and forth between Colorado and California via the goodness of friends or courtesy of the bus lines. It was the trips during the holidays that always stuck in my mind.

Music: Hurtling down the highway. It's dark and most of the passengers in our car have settled in to a quiet reverie. Except  for the few who are listening to Evie's "Come On Ring Those Bells" for the 20th time. Or the highly techno cover of the "Hallelujah Chorus." Or when our driver croons along with Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", along with distinctive warble. Even today, when I hear some of these songs, I can hear the drone of the vehicle and see the landscape slipping past my window.

Fatigue: It sounds funny to list this as a memory, but plug a few college students in a car for a thirty hour drive and see if you don't remember it.  Not that there weren't moments of tension (getting lost has a way of doing that). But what usually comes to my mind are the jokes, the laughter, the time at the 24 hour diner, at which I am convinced there is a yellowing bulletin by the counter warning about us (ok, we laughed and joked a lot...we were a bunch of Christian college students, not rowdy bikers!).

Lights: All cross-country trips, whether in a car or a bus, have the same view of city after city, town after town, one right after another. Unless you stop for gas or meals, they all approach, pass, and fade out your window.  But at Christmas time, it was as if each burg brought out its finest to welcome one and all to their town. It was as if it was a shared party. And each year, whether with one or six or a bunch of fellow travelers, I always thought, "I know Who the Guest of Honor is!"

The Reunion: Most of my Christmas travel memories happened in college. When I got married, "home" was where my wife was. But one year, we went through a transition and a move. My family relocated to Oregon, but I had to stay behind in Colorado to wrap up lose ends. It was a difficult time and I feared that I'd never be able to afford to make it to Oregon (not that I could stay in Colorado either). But thanks to some friends, I was able to get a bus ticket to travel the week of Christmas. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me in the months ahead, but I knew that I was going to be with family.

The trip on the bus had everything.  I saw city after city with lights. Theological issues aside, Salt Lake City knows how to deck out a town for Christmas. There was the drone of the bus, the weariness of travel, but the shared camaraderie of fellow passengers heading for holiday destinations. We even had music, as the bus driver valiantly attempted to lead us in "Jingle Bells."

And then, the day before Christmas Eve, a foggy day, I arrived "home" to my wife and three "tator tots."  And the destination made the long bus ride all the more memorable.

I have many Christmas thoughts and memories which I look forward to sharing. But those scenes of buzzing over the highway in anticipation to Christmas celebrations with family and friends stick in my mind and heart to this day.