Wednesday, December 12
Each year, as the organ introduction to ‘Congregation Arise” began, my cousins and I would glance at each other and try, usually unsuccessfully, not to laugh. For some reason, as children (and also as adults), we found this song – literally directing the church members to stand up – very amusing. It was also exciting, though, and something for us to look forward to each year. The song meant that our whole family and extended family was together in church on Christmas Eve and that Christmas was just hours away.
Our big group, always seated at the very front of the church, would “arise” from our pew, sing carols on the church steps, see whose candle could hold out the longest against the ocean breezes, and then “go forth this holy night” to Johnny Harris’ or Carey Hilliard’s for some traditional Christmas Eve fried foods. The carols, candles, and communion service has always been part of our family Christmas. In fact, in 36 years, I have never celebrated Christmas anywhere other than at my grandparents’ (Lee and Pauline Powers) house in Savannah. I don't even know how to do Christmas anywhere else. As a child, I didn't think Santa Claus could find us if we weren’t in Savannah.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I think that is because it has always meant traveling to be with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Savannah. We've made so many wonderful Christmas memories over the years – not the least of which came from a Christmas play held one year in my grandparents’ yard. I, as the angel/narrator/director of that play, was especially pleased that every member of the family participated – including my grandfather in a robe with a towel on his head as a wise man and my Aunt Polly and Uncle Steve Stramm (who were relative newlyweds at the time) as Mary and Joseph.
Coming to Savannah for Christmas and attending the Christmas Eve service has always meant the end of the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas. As a child, it meant the end of circling items in catalogs that I wanted Santa Claus to bring. As a student, it meant a time to relax with family after exams. As a working adult, it meant a nice reprieve from the end-year crunch, finishing projects.
And, now, as the mother of one year old Jackson, it means a chance to let him get to know his entire family and to start making Christmas memories of his own. I hope that those memories will include “arising” with the First Baptist congregation and going forth to celebrate that God sent Jesus, just as he promised, to come to earth to save us from our sins. I hope that Jackson will understand that there are some to whom Christmas doesn’t mean anything deeper than a decorated tree. I hope that he will want to share his many blessings with others. I also hope that he will one day think of Christmas and smile, as I do, at memories of singing carols at church, laughing with his cousins, and heading home feeling happy, secure, and loved.
– Lee Ann Anand