I haven't celebrated Christmas Eve with my family in years. When the snow started falling on the Portland area and proceeded to sock in the entire city and outlying suburbs, I wondered if my dreams of hosting Christmas Eve in our new home with family, new and old, would materialize or be cancelled along with everything else in the city. Fortunately, my family was willing to brave the roads, cloaked in snow, ice and slush and around 5 p.m., they started arriving.
My Mom is a newlywed and when she married Terry Hadlock we inherited a whole new set of family members. We have been anxious to get to know them and were thrilled that all of his sons and their families were able to join us for Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, his son, Ben, and his family sat in a traffic jam on the Interstate for 3 hours and never made it over. But the rest of the family did: my Mom and Terry; his son Jon; his son Mike,wife Becky and their three kids, Silas, Avi and Isaac, who are new cousins for our kids. Our new next-door neighbors, John and Kathy, joined us on the spur of the moment when their plans got cancelled and within a matter of minutes, our home was bustling with activity.
Adults hovered around the kitchen island, munching on appetizers and sipping wine, Christmas music played in the background, and the sound of the kids running around and playing upstairs drifted from the loft. As we gathered to bless the meal, I looked around at our circle of family and friends, and my heart warmed with love.
We stuffed ourselves with cheese soup, pizza, salads, smoked salmon, and fresh shrimp and then gathered in the family room. Young and old, newly acquainted and family, smooshed together on the couches and on the floor. In anticipation of Christmas Eve, we all had been reading The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever out loud as families and we saved the last chapter to read together as a group. The little kids fidgeted and squirmed while the big kids (grown ups included) sat enthralled in the conclusion of the funny, poignant and endearing story of the awful Herdman kids who take over the local Christmas pageant and switch it all around to make it REAL. We laughed as the wise men ditched the perfume bottles for their Christmas basket ham and bring it as a gift to the newborn JEWISH king. And we cried as Mary, looking like the fugitive she was, clung to the baby Jesus doll and wept, overcome with emotion, but ready to clobber anyone who got too close to her son.
When the story finished, my Mom explained an old family tradition of capping Christmas Eve with a time of thankfulness. As she passed out candles, Paige, our 2 1/2 year old, broke out into "Happy Birthday" and we all followed along and sang Happy Birthday to our newborn King. We dimmed the lights, and bathed in just the light of the Christmas tree, watched as Curt's candle sputtered to life. He told us one thing he was grateful for and then carefully lit Alli's candle. We went around the room like this and as our thankfulness spread, so did the light. Everyone participated, even the littlest ones, and when the circle was complete we worshipped our Savior by singing Silent Night.
We reluctantly blew out our candles and our guests started the process of bundling up and heading home on the treacherous roads. My Mom and Terry were the last to leave, smothered in hugs and kisses and "Merry Christmases" as they drove away. We gathered our crew and as I closed the door, I knew this was a night to remember.