The sweet girl is enchanted that there are actually 12 days of Christmas. Me too.
Last night as she was finally getting into her little cot bed at Grandma's -- very late, after a long day with Grandma, Aunts, Uncle, and numerous cousins -- her Daddy gave her a kiss and said "sleep well...Merry Christmas." He slipped out of the room, leaving me to sit by her bed and sing a few Christmas carols, as has been our recent tradition.
Before I could begin singing though, she announced: "I want Daddy to say Merry Christmas again in the morning when he wakes me up, and I'll say it back." "Okay," I agreed. "I'll make sure to tell him to say it." And then she added enthusiastically, "And I want him to say it to me every morning for all twelve days!"
We're home again, a bit road-weary after such a whirlwind trip but grateful to have spent some time with the extended family. Every year I'm grateful we do it, even though I know it's exhausting, especially years like this one when we barely had any time off from work and have to go immediately back into the rush and busyness of our offices and schedules tomorrow. I hope I can still find time to rejoice and reflect over the next ten days of Christmas. That's my plan!
Some of my most joyous and meditative times this Advent and Christmas have been those nightly carol singing sessions with my little girl. It's only been in the past several months that she's begun to try to sing. I think because she began to talk so late, singing just didn't occur to her for a long time, though she has always loved and responded to music.
I've always sung carols to her at this time of year -- and admittedly sometimes at other times of the year too. When she was a baby, I must have sung "Silent Night" as as a lullaby in the evening for a few months in a row. It's one of the most lovely and quieting songs I know, and she has always "rested" in it, as a little bird might snuggle down under a mother's wing in a round, warm nest.
But it's been a particular joy this month to hear her begin to sing along with me. She tends to warble and not always quite catch the tune (though sometimes she does!) but she has a wonderful sense of rhythm and meter, knowing when to hold a note and when to keep it short. Her joyous staccato sounds on "heaven and nature sing" are terrific but my heart has really melted when I hear her soft, tiny voice winding its way determindedly through lines like "God and sinners rec-on-ciled." I've been amazed at how many of the carol lyrics she knows, if not word for word, then very close. Clearly she's been paying attention to the words all these years, even if she's just now beginning to sing them. I know she doesn't fully understand what they all mean yet, but how grateful I am that they're there in her heart and mind, like the Bible verses she has begun to learn.
The words of verses, hymns and carols were given to me when I was very little, and I am still so grateful that they are there for me to call upon in times of joy and sorrow.
And there have been sorrowful times of late too. On this second day of Christmas, I got word about a dear friend in New England whose ninety-two year old father passed away this morning, almost nine years to the day since the death of her thirteen year old son (who was named for her father).
And while we were in Virginia, we saw television news for the first time in months. It made me grateful for no t.v. as a general rule; it was a strange time of year to suddenly find oneself bombarded by news reports (whose frenzied and dramatized tenor is so different than reading the news in the paper or online...and admittedly I've been so busy lately I've not done much of that). So much of the news was hard and painful. One story in particular, about the mother of two teenaged autistic sons, had me in tears. (One of the boys had accidentally set a fire and the other died.) Seeing the raw grief of that mother and seeing the news of other hard things -- killings and accidents and fires -- made me want to fall on my knees in recognition of our world's continuing deep need for a Savior, and in gratitude that Jesus came and continues to come in this world.
It rained most of the trip back, as well as the trip down. Early this evening, the Christmas lights through the fog and rain, especially as we came over the mountains, were stark and beautiful and almost somber. I'm glad I'm home...glad to journal here...glad to rest.