Sadness squeezes through the cracks of life sometimes. Sometimes it rushes through in overwhelming torrents.
I love Christmas. I can remember it as one time in a year full of screwed up family life when my parents actually seemed like the parents they should be, and when us siblings banded together in hope of good presents and good food, and the fun of getting to see our cousins and run wild at my grandparents house.
We had multiple traditions. There was the Advent wreath and the reading of different scriptures pertaining to the birth of Christ (a grand tradition that most non-denominational churches miss out on). Each week another candle would be lit, and we would fight over who would get to use the snuffer.
There was the Christmas choir. Each year, our youth and handbell choir would practice and then perform musical selections for the season. Sometimes we acted out a play. I always sang a solo...
One of my favorite traditions was our "live nativity." For a week or so leading up to Christmas, every evening, sometimes 3 times a night, the youth from my church would dress up and act out the nativity story. We had a timed audio track narrated by my dad over dramatic Christmas music on loud speakers set in the trees. Certain songs still bring those memories back so strongly. We had musty costumes, robes and head dresses, staffs and a manger. Set up outdoors in full view of the busy street, we would walk through the story for the benefit of passersby. Sometimes I was a shepherd, sometimes I was Mary... always we were freezing cold by the last performance. There was usually hot apple cider waiting for us in the fellowship hall.
All these festivities led up to the climactic moment when we celebrated the birth of Jesus at our midnight Christmas eve service. All those activities somehow added up to family.