Editor’s Note: This is a guest Christmas devotional by Sheila Ingle. If you read last year’s Diva Christmas Series, you might remember her! Her contribution to last year’s “Short and Sweet” series is available to read here.
You might not love Christmas and always see it as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Or, maybe this year in particular is hard for your family. This is Sheila’s story of such a Christmas, even though it is her “Best Christmas Ever.”
Want to catch up on our “Best Christmas Ever” series? Day 1, Day 2, Day 3,Day 4, Day 5, Day 6
A little background info on our Diva Christmas Series: Every year I’ve been editor, I like to celebrate the Christmas season with a special series and theme. This is year 5!! This year’s theme is “The Best Christmas Ever” and I think you’ll enjoy the wide variety of posts everyone submitted! It was a pleasure reading them as they were submitted, and taking in everyone’s Best Christmases Ever. Submissions are closed, but if you’d like to read more about the series, here is my post announcing the series!
For Such is the Kingdom of Heaven
2009 was a difficult year for our family. Mother died in March from Alzheimer’s complications, and my dad died on December 6, 2009. And besides those losses, my brother’s cancer, after a thirty- year remission returned. We were reeling from the challenges and losses.
The joy of the Christmas season, without our usual family get-togethers was permanently changed; I couldn’t get myself together. It was unknown territory that I didn’t want to walk.
To add to my thoughts were my cousin’s words to me about my now being the matriarch, the thoughts of being head of our family gave me pause.
At age 61, I wasn’t ready for that mantle of responsibility. Yes, I was the oldest daughter and oldest grandchild. Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Duchess of Grantham, is a clear matriarch, but my claim was more of a family storyteller.
So began new talks about Christmas with the final decision being we would travel to Charleston to be with my brother and his family. I made too many lists and finally just packed, not really paying attention.
It didn’t feel like Christmas, and I didn’t feel like Christmas.
My husband John was coughing to beat the band, but had no fever. I drove, and he slept in between coughing fits. Our son drove his motorcycle. By the time we arrived, John was running a fever. After a detour to a pharmacy, I settled him in bed. Yes, I was a bit addled by this point in wondering what was next. I was about to find out.
It was time to meet my family for the children’s Christmas Eve service at Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church. Scott (our son) drove. Because we had left about five minutes too late, he picked up a little speed. The next thing we knew there was a siren and red lights behind us.
There was little conversation after we pulled over. I hesitated on telling him we were headed to church, because the policeman didn’t sound interested. Yes, there was a $75 fine for an early Christmas present to Isle of Palms, and yes, I paid it later.
Truly I was numb.
The smell of fresh greenery and the lights of many candles greeted us. Children in Biblical costumes, and adults herding them milled around the porch. As the piano and organ played, Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, we joined our family. Singing with the rest of the congregation, we watched the children march down the aisle.
Some had typical props, like a stuffed lamb, a staff, a crooked crown or two. Some were barefoot; a few stumbled over their long tunics or pulled on the rope around their waists. But most were smiling, and I started to smile, too.
As we sat down, the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus. His bellowing “Behold” brought laughter to the audience. One of the wise men poked another with his elbow; the response of “Don’t do that!” was appropriate. There were more giggles, and I giggled, too. Then one of the angels got tired and plopped down. It was like a steam roller, as all the little angels plopped down. One scooted down a couple of steps to the bottom. It took a volunteer to help her back in place.
There were fingers in noses, hands over faces, snickering, scratching, and pointing. Mary kept covering and uncovering Baby Jesus. Joseph was bored and looked for ways of escape. A halo fell off, and everyone tried to help pick it up. Chaos ruled that part of the stage for a few minutes. Some rocked back-and-forth; others checked out the balcony. And as the children found
their parents and grandparents, there was a slew of pointing and waving.
I laughed and enjoyed every minute of the Nativity. The innocence of children being children was charming. It completely changed my focus. No longer was I swimming in the doldrums, I was smiling with my face and my heart. Despite my grief and loss, a group of children reminded of my very real joy.
The last song we sang, as the children processioned out, was Joy to the World. And it was a joyful sound celebrating Jesus’ birthday, and my voice blended with the others as my “heart prepared Him room.”
South Carolinian Sheila Ingle is the author of five books about unknown heroines who lived in SC. She blends history and fiction to create memorable women. You can read more about her at sheilaingle.com, @sheilaingle, Facebook Sheila Ingle Author.