The Day after Christmas

Dec 26

Each year I share my one attempt at poetry entitled “The Day after Christmas.” It reminds us that Christmas is not only a day or a season but also a lifestyle. May we celebrate the good news of Christ coming into the world year-round. 

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all were asleep

The twenty-fifth had left them all tired and beat.

The stockings were slung carelessly on the floor

Stripped of their contents and of interest no more.

The children were exhausted, collapsed in their beds,

With visions of sleeping-in fixed in their heads.

And mama in her flannel and me with my mate,

Were in hopes that we too might get to sleep late.

When out in the front there arose such a racket

I sprang from my bed like a frightened jackrabbit.

I stubbed my big toe on the way to the door,

And set off the alarm system on the first floor.

The early sun’s light shone bright on the toys

Left in the front yard yesterday by my boys.

Then I saw a car splashing right through the muck,

A red, white and blue delivery truck.

My head was aching and my stomach felt ill,

As the postman delivered a hand full of bills!

The charges were listed in dollars and cents,

Payment would empty the United States’ mints.

Now, Visa! Now, Penney’s! Now, Macy’s and Rich’s!

On, Walmart! On, K-Mart! On Abercrombie and Fitch’s!

November and December we had a great ball,

Come January, we owe something to all.

I made my way through a maze of presents piled high,

Looked again at the bills and gave a great sigh.

Turkey bones roosted on the dining room table,

Yesterday we ate all we were able.

I tried to turn on the new espresso maker,

Complete with a digital, alarm clock waker.

My family stumbled slowly down the stairs

As cordial as a den of hibernating bears.

I bent down to pet our faithful dog, Carl,

But he snapped at my fingers and let out a snarl.

My wife dressed quite quickly and shouted to all,

“I’m going bargain hunting all day at the mall!”

The children slammed the door behind them as well,

Going to friends’ homes for Christmas show and tell.

And I collapsed in my brand new easy chair,

To see how my favorite football teams would fare.

I held a glass of Alka-Seltzer firmly in my fist

Regretting last night’s snack I should have missed.

During halftime I arose from the recliner,

My team was ahead and the world seemed much finer.

Wading through the wrapping paper piled knee high

Something on the mantle piece caught my eye.

Half hidden beneath discarded ribbons and bows:

The manger scene had been placed weeks ago.

Carefully clearing the bright paper away

I witnessed the reminder of that first Christmas day.

The Christ child rested in a bed simple and small

Sent by God into the world to save us all.

Nativity figures of that first silent night,

Made it quite clear what had been lost to sight.

“A Happy Christmas to all!” is because of God’s son,

On the day after, our Christmas has only begun.

  

Christmas Eve Worship

Northside United Methodist Church

2799 Northside Drive NW

Atlanta, Georgia 30305

www.northsideumc.org

11:00 a.m.       A Family Service of Candlelight & Carols                Sanctuary

2:00 p.m.         A Family Service of Candlelight & Carols                Sanctuary

4:00 p.m.         Contemporary Christmas Worship                           Faith/Arts Center

6:00 p.m.         A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

8:30 p.m.         A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

11:00 p.m.       A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

Nativity Animals will be present from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in The Wallace Garden. Children young and old are invited to visit.

Childcare for ages 6 weeks to pre-K will be available during the 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. services.

O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

A Christmas “To Do” List

I’m a big believer in To Do lists. So during the Holy Days, I’m making my list and checking it twice. By Christmas Eve, I hope to check every To Do item Done. Here’s some things that will make my season merry and bright.

Eat and Drink

  • Egg nog (dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • Hot apple cider (stirred with a cinnamon stick)
  • Roasted pecans with butter and salt
  • Ritz crackers with peanut-butter dipped in chocolate

Don’t Eat and Drink

  • Fruit cake
  • Figgy pudding
  • Oyster dressing (my great-aunt considered this a holiday treat)
  • Haggis (non-holiday specific and rejected on general principle)

Watch

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”)
  • Scrooged (Sue me—I like Bill Murray)
  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Cartoon version—not the Jim Carrey abomination)

Turn It Up

  • Tender Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant
  • I Need a Silent Night by Amy Grant (heck, listen to the entire holiday CD)
  • Carol of the Bells by Mannheim Steamroller
  • Christmas in Dixie by Alabama

Change the Station

  • Blue Christmas by Elvis
  • So This is Christmas by John Lennon
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy
  • The Little Drummer Boy by Anyone

Listen to New Holiday Favorites

  • Wrapped in Red by Kelly Clarkston
  • The Christmas Can-Can by Straight No Chaser
  • Shake Up Christmas by Train

Deck the Halls

  • Christmas Tree adorned with ornaments from 32 years of marriage
  • Assorted wreathes on windows and doors
  • Garland on the mantles and banisters
  • Mangers scenes in my office displayed 24/7/365

Read

  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore
  • The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry
  • Matthew 1:18-2:12
  • Luke 2:1-21

Sing

  • O, Come, All Ye Faithful
  • What Child is This
  • Holy Night
  • Joy to the World

Give

  • Presents to family, friends, and Sam the Yorkshire Terrier
  • The Murphy-Harpst Children’s Home
  • Salvation Army bell ringers
  • All of my heart, soul, mind, and strength

Christmas Carols

Christmas carolsDuring Advent, I am preaching a worship series entitled Christmas Carols. We are exploring the meaning of four hymns celebrating Christ’s birth.

Many songs associated with the holiday season actually have nothing to do with Christmas at all, including Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, We Wish you a Merry Christmas, and Grandma Got Ran over by a Reindeer.

During sermon preparation, I actually found a web site entitled Top Ten Christmas Songs for Atheists.

Yeah, I’ll let you ponder the irony of the title for a moment.

CHRISTmas carols, on the other hand, focus on the birth of Jesus Christ.

So one day in the midst of sermon-writer’s-block, I asked myself the question, “Self, what is your favorite Christmas carol?” Then I flipped through a hymnal to make my selection.

After some internal debate, I finally chose What Child is This. William Dix published the lyrics in 1865. The verses express wonder and awe that the helpless babe of Bethlehem is also Christ the King. The hymn invites all of creation to worship the son of Mary.

Dix set the words to a 16th century English melody title Greensleeves.  The 87.87 meter tune with refrain musically reflects the call and response of the words. What child is this? This, this is Christ the King!

So . . .

What’s your favorite carol? And why?

An Early Christmas

Christmas is Dec 25A Hallmark display at a local store recently caught my eye. The sign above the holiday greeting cards declared: Christmas is Monday, December 25th.

Christmas is on December 25th this year. Good to know.

Many bemoan how the holidays seem to come earlier each year. Retailers anxious for Christmas sales begin Black Friday sales on July 4th. Costco erected a winter wonderland of snowmen and penguins in September. XM Radio premiered their holiday stations on November 1.

And Hobby Lobby . . . well, the home goods store celebrates three seasons: Last Christmas, This Christmas, and Next Christmas.

I’ve always resisted the Hallowthankmas madness, choosing to observe the day after Thanksgiving as the personal advent of my holiday season. However, this year I’ve experienced a Dicken’s-like change of heart.

The day after Christmas always dawns with an awareness that I never accomplished everything intended during the holiday rush. December days rush by so quickly with over-committed calendars and hectic schedules.

In addition, Christmas Eve falls on Sunday this year, and churches will spend December 24th in the Prenatal Waiting Room, anticipating Jesus’ arrival. Northside Church features SIX—count them, SIX—worship services, including 11:00, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:30, and 11:00.

So this year I’m celebrating an early Christmas.

I’m decking the halls, listening to Christmas music, and singing The Twelve . . . well, I DO draw the line at singing The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Five Nativity Scenes adorn my office. An old fashioned, candle ornament is plugged into an outlet, bubbling merrily away. I’ve been sipping eggnog since mid-November. And if I had some chestnuts, they would be roasting on an open fire.

Oh, I fight the occasional urge to say: Bah, humbug. I’m a recovering Scrooge with occasional lapses. However, life’s too short to miss the advent of the Holy Day Season.

Christmas is Monday, December 25th this year.

But why wait? Celebrate an early Christmas today.

 

Thanksgiving in the South

Our community’s continued growth reflects the changing face of Georgia. Transplants from faraway places now call our state home. These newcomers represent a rich diversity of heritages, traditions, and cultures. However, they sometimes find Southern holiday customs perplexing. For those not blessed to be born and bred below the Mason-Dixon Line, I would like to offer this primer on celebrating Thanksgiving in the Deep South.

Thanksgiving Normal RockwellFirst and foremost, turkey is ALWAYS the main course at a Southern Thanksgiving feast. We hold no bias against the beef, fish, and pork food groups, but poultry reigns supreme on November’s fourth Thursday. We learned from our mothers who baked turkeys a golden brown, waiting until the surgically inserted, plastic pop-up button indicated the proper degree of doneness.

Frying the bird in peanut oil provides an acceptable alternative, although many a good ole’ boy bears the proud grease scars of holidays past. In more recent days, slow smoking a turkey over a grill has also gained in popularity and acceptance.

Real Southerners serve DRESSING with their turkey entrees. Crumble together a few pones of cornbread with onions, shortening, spices, and salt. Then bake in the oven until the grease bubbles and the top turns a crusty brown.

Let me be clear on this point: stuffing is something put in a pillow! Why would anyone cook a side dish in the backside of a turkey? Think about it. If you must put something inside the bird’s body, place a few scoops of Crisco into the cavity.

Turkey and dressing require a heaping helping of artery-clogging giblet gravy. Giblets resemble sausage and pork rinds—you will enjoy them more if you remain uncertain of their origins. Find the plastic packet of unidentifiable bird parts and cook them until tender. Combine the innards with roasting pan broth and Martha White flour. Simmer until a spoon stands straight up in the mixture. Then pour the concoction liberally over everything on your plate.

A standard side dish at Southern Thanksgivings is sweet potato casserole. If you cannot find the orange vegetable in the grocery aisle, yams form a viable alternative. Cream the cans’ contents with brown sugar and butter. Then cover the soufflé with a marshmallow blanket. I personally prefer small marshmallows but their bigger brothers serve equally well.

No Thanksgiving repast is complete without cranberry sauce. It provides a festive color and piquant flavor. REAL cranberry sauce comes in a jellied cylindrical shape with the can ridges still imprinted upon its side. Simply slice the jiggling mass into quarter inch thick slabs. I knew a woman with no raising who once served real cranberries combined with some other fruits and nuts. I just shook my head and said, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Southern hospitality dictates a hostess provide bread for the post-dinner rite of plate-sopping. Any bread will do, but the bake-and-serve rolls with the four ridges on top remain the norm. Classy homes also provide real butter. Serving the spread in its original foil wrapper on a dinner plate is acceptable table manners.

The feast concludes with a multiple choice selection of desserts. True Southerners consume at least one slice of pecan pie along with other cakes and sweets. We save pumpkin pie for Yankees and other foreigners. The entire dinner is washed down with sweet iced tea. (If you have to SAY “sweet” or “iced” tea, then you’re not in the South.)

After dinner, good manners dictate one loosens a belt two notches before sinking comatose into an easy chair. Most men “watch” the football game while taking a long nap.  Later in the day, leftovers can be consumed to fill up any empty corners.

And finally, before, during, and after the meal, do not forget the real reason for the day. On this uniquely American and Christian holiday, give thanks to God for the many blessings of life—including the grace to celebrate Thanksgiving in the South!

 

 

 

 

DDS: ATL

FILL IN THE BLANK with your favorite Department of Driver Services’ horror story.

ddsWe’ve all heard and told them. The plots feature faceless bureaucracies, prison-grey facilities, long lines, sullen clerks, indecipherable instructions, and gleeful denials. A trip to the DDS office competes with a tax audit, root canal, kidney stones, back spasms, and an in-law visit.

However, my wife and I recently moved to Atlanta; and our motor vehicles expired on our upcoming birthdays.

To add insult to injury, the state required us to physically visit a office to obtain a new Secure ID driver license. This involves presenting several forms of personal identification that include a birth certificate, Social Security Card, passport, utility bill, or bank statement. I halfway expected someone to demand a DNA sample, pint of blood, and retinal scan as well.

With fear and trembling, we planned a visit to DDS Land. We arrived at the downtown Atlanta location at 400 Whitehall Street SW a bit early. The new facility featured a gated, well lit parking lot. A typical assortment of humanity waited in line for the 7:30 a.m. opening.

At 7:30 on the dot, the doors opened and a security guard cheerfully welcomed each patron. Since we had completed our forms online, a young lady helpfully directed us to a kiosk where pushing a few screens generated a number in line.

My bottom barely touched the chair before an electronic voice called B-104 to Station 15. I walked warily up to the counter where a clerk named Pamela greeted me with a smile.

Following a review of my paperwork, she clicked a few buttons, checked my eyesight, and asked me to smile for the camera. After swiping my credit card, I received a temporary license and . . . I WAS DONE.

Total time in the DDS: 15 minutes start to finish!

To recap: secure parking, new facility, cheerful security guard, helpful attendant, professional clerk, efficient process, and happy clients.

Maybe others have DDS horror stories to tell. However, my fairy tale visit began: Once upon a time; and it ended: And they lived happily ever after.