Clinging to Christmas Eve

Do you ever find the Christmas season to be bittersweet?

To anyone who asks, I say that I love Christmas. I truly enjoy the season, but it doesn’t mean that things are always rosy.

As a child, Christmas was a magical time: full of candlelight, decorated trees, lots of family, and the celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas Eve and Christmas day were filled with everyone and everything I loved. Even if the year wasn’t great for us, those two days felt right.

My childhood church didn’t have a Christmas Eve service, so we’d often find a midnight mass at a local Catholic church. I have fond memories of dozing in the pews snuggled in my dress-coat as we listened to the Hallelujah Chorus.

As I’ve aged, the struggles of life have etched lines that are impossible to ignore even in the happiest of seasons. Christmas has new meaning for me as an adult. I find myself in the quiet moments of Christmastime reflecting on our need for solace in hard times. “The hopes and fears of all the years” don’t disappear simply because it’s the season to deck the halls. The times of celebration are still full of wonder, but I also feel an ache for something more…something sustainable when the fanfare subsides.

The church I joined as an adult observes Advent. The focus on preparation and anticipation for the celebration of Christ’s birth is something I crave as I see the hurt in our world. The culmination of Advent is the Christmas Eve service, and in the final minutes of that service we sing Silent Night by candlelight. As the light is passed candle-by-candle, I feel closest to God. We are not alone.

Throughout the year when life is hard and dreary, I cling to the experience of Christmas Eve—the memory of individual lights joining together to illuminate the sanctuary. We don’t change the world alone; we do it together.

Shauna Niequist said, “Christmas is about sacred light cutting through the darkness—not about pretending the darkness isn’t there.”

So let’s cling to the light…and remind others of it’s warmth when life feels cold and dark.

Christmas Fun!

I have plans to write a semi-serious post about Christmas this weekend, but for now I’d like to have a little fun.

Some of my favorite parts of Christmas involve my family and general moments of silliness:

  • Dancing in our pajamas by the light of the Christmas tree.
  • Cooking a giant breakfast on Christmas Day with family and whoever else wanted a seat at the table.
  • Singing every word of Elvis’ Blue Christmas and Dean Martin’s Marshmallow World.
  • Staying up late on Christmas Eve, and waking up early on Christmas Day.
  • Driving around to look at houses all decked out in lights.

All of these memories/traditions have a soundtrack…because music is an essential element of my Christmas experience. As a little treat and a glimpse into my life, I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite holiday tunes. The version of the song is important to me, so this playlist consists of the versions and artists that play a role in my Christmas celebration.

Enjoy!

The playlist is here.

Gift Idea for Movie Fans!

I enjoy going to the movies, but they’re expensive. I’m not a super fan, but I enjoy the entertainment. Every year I struggle to choose which movies I’ll see in theaters and which will have to wait until dvd release.

This year, thanks to a friend who told me about MoviePass, I don’t have to choose! For the low price of $9.99 a month, you can see a 2D movie every day. I have no intention of seeing 30 movies in a month, but if I see even two movies in a month I’m saving money!

When I first heard about MoviePass, I thought it was too good to be true. But my friends used MoviePass with success, so I ordered my card. The first time I went to the theater I was convinced that something would go wrong…but everything was great!

How it works:
1). Go to the MoviePass website and click “Sign Up.”
2). Purchase a plan and they mail you a customized card.
3). Once you receive the card, download the MoviePass app and activate your card. – Make sure your location services are activated for the app.
4). Get to the theater!
5). Once you’re there, (I usually do this step in the parking lot) open the app and select the theater.
6) Select the showtime of the movie you want to see.
7) Wait a few seconds until you see the “Success!” message.
8) Go into the theater and purchase your ticket using your MoviePass card – it works like a credit card.
9) To save money on concessions, make sure you sign up for whatever theater loyalty programs are available!

Downsides:
1). You can’t use the card on sites like Fandango or to pre-purchase tickets.
2). No 3D or Imax movies.
3). You need to make sure there are participating theaters in your area. (all the theaters around me participate)
4). I can’t think of any others!

I personally chose to purchase MoviePass for November, December, and January because those months tend to have the most movie releases that interest me. At that point, I’ll decide whether it’s financially advantageous to continue. So far I’ve seen seven movies and everything has gone smoothly.

The best part? You can gift a subscription to someone who loves movies! It’s a great idea.

Book Review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I had the privilege of hearing Bryan Stevenson speak this past August at the Global Leadership Summit. He engages his audience with insightful observations while pulling them into the story he tells. That day as he spoke, he both empowered me and broke my heart. He spoke of the need to change the narratives in our society that sustain injustice. His speech encouraged his listeners to change their proximity to the vulnerable populations in our society. “There is power in proximity.”

I ordered his book, Just Mercy*, that evening after I left the Summit. It took me a few days to open the book and start reading. My hesitation was a curious thing because my usual pattern after enjoying a speaker is to devour their writing as soon as possible. I remember discussing this hesitation with my mother and saying, “I’m scared to read this because I think it’s going to make me want to return to law school.”

When I did open the book, I found his writing as engaging, thought provoking, and powerful as his speaking. In Just Mercy, Mr. Stevenson tells a bit of his own story and his journey to becoming an advocate for reform in the American criminal justice system. However, the crux of this book is his telling of other people’s stories – people wrongly convicted in the criminal system. He does more than put faces to the issues; he puts his heart into them and encourages his reader to do the same.

Mr. Stevenson reminds his audience that the men and women who are serving time in prison are people. They are not just the sum of their crimes or their life circumstances. He discusses racial inequality, excessive sentencing, inhumane treatment of prisoners, wrongful convictions, the discrimination of the poor, and many other issues in the American justice system. He tackles the issues through telling the stories of people who experienced these issues firsthand.

The book tackles tough issues without condemning or shaming the reader. Instead, Mr. Stevenson brings awareness and ultimately offers hope that everyone can make a difference. He explains that the words we use and the narratives we perpetuate go a long way in shaping our culture. Mr. Stevenson encourages his audience to stand up for the poor and the disenfranchised because they are worthy of love and dignity.

I encourage you to read the book. It made an impact on my life and my vision for the future.

 

More resources that include Mr. Stevenson:

13th – Documentary

Pass the Mic Interview with Bryan Stevenson – Podcast

 

*Affiliate Link