By the time you read this, I’ll be either sleeping or sleepless in Seattle -- seriously! My daughter, Ileana, sent me a ticket for a holiday getaway.
Nevertheless, it’s the season -- however one wants to categorize it; the time to wish you all season’s greetings --Shalom, Joyeaux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Mele Kalikimaka, oh, yeah, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc. And I do.
Last Tuesday, I wasn’t quite in the holiday mood, as I had spent a few hours in the local courthouse and then more on Wednesday in the state engineer’s office in Santa Fe, trying to settle some legal documents regarding my well status in Ojitos Frios. Later on, though, on Wednesday evening, the week before Christmas week, I saw the light.
And rightly so. I’ll explain how and why.
My son, Elias, had called me early Wednesday to remind me that Elijah, my grandson, would be featured in a program that night. So, after a hair-raising two days at the various offices I mentioned before, I set off to Albuquerque and Legacy Church, where Eli serves as media director.
I usually avoid driving after dark, but this was a special occasion — I didn’t know how special it would be, though. Arriving in Albuquerque at the height of after-work traffic usually bodes no good. After getting lost on the West side, taking the wrong exit, I was frazzled. Eventually, I found my way back to Central Avenue, though, and found Legacy.
Whew! Made it with about 15 seconds to spare. The auditorium wasn’t quite filled yet; I spotted my son, we exchanged a few words, and he proceeded to his duties while I searched for a seat. The lights went down, and the pastor greeted the audience, telling us that the regular service would be supplanted by a children’s program. I settled in, still frazzled, but at least I could be alone with my thoughts.
The lights came up, and there on stage, about 250 youngsters — probably ranging in age 6 to mid-teens — were assembled on risers and on the floor of the stage, some in “Nativity” garb, all seasonally dressed in their Sunday best. Then it began. The choral pastor invited us all to join the children in singing well-known Christmas carols. That’s all I needed. My dark thoughts faded as memories of similar celebrations during my growing-up years flooded my mind.
Remember when Christmas was a time of joy, a time of light, a time of sharing, giving, caring? Caroling, joy, renewal and good tidings? Seriously, it still is, if we let it, and not just in a church setting.
Since I was in kindergarten, and a parochial school, Christmas always meant a program of some kind. I recall singing “Up on the Housetop,” “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” along with the traditional carols. A few years later, having transferred to public school, I participated in Christmas programs which fully integrated lay and traditional themes.
Back at Cathedral School, in the fifth grade, Sister Joahanita chose me to portray Mary in a nativity play: Mom outdid herself in creating my costume for the occasion. In our high school chorus Christmas presentation, I recall that we sang “Shalom, Wavarim, Shalom” (Good tidings we bring, to you and your kin), and suddenly a hubbub arose from the audience. People shuffled and there was audible reaction.
Of course, we students on stage peered into the darkened auditorium and could not immediately discern the reasons for the disruption.
Our director, Father Raymar Middendorf, became nervous, thinking that perhaps the audience was objecting to the Jewish carol. Not at all; what had happened was that Coach Ernest Roy, dressed as Santa Claus, had entered the auditorium, escorting everybody’s favorite teacher, Sister Herman Joseph, and the audience reacted. I recall our mixed chorus classes assembling at the local hospital to carol for the patients. We were well-received by the staff, and the patients seemed to appreciate our efforts. After all, ‘twas the season to be jolly!
But back to the Legacy message. The title of the presentation was “They followed the light.” Set in a modern-day department store, “Herod’s,” we met the owner objecting to one of his employees having allowed a nativity scene, replete with shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and the “three wise guys,”(wise men) to invade the shopping scene.
What followed was an obvious spoof on the idea that Christmas is a time of commercial profit, juxtaposed by the wise guys following the light and the message of Christmas as a time for thinking of others, of fellowship, of joy. No absence of light, here.
It was a delightful presentation; the program presented music, joy, dance, beautifully choreographed, well-practiced, all children. Yes, the audience saw the light, offered each other peace and fellowship, and Pastor Steve Smothermon closed the program with a message of the season to all.
On the weekend, Las Vegas Christian Center and the Methodist Church rounded out my Christmas- carol-hopping-menu, giving me additional levity and a renewal of the spirit.
So, in the spirit of the season, let’s all follow the light. Enjoy the holiday and its various manifestations of joy and peace.
Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.