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This year may be my most peaceful Christmas ever. Last year, my full-time experience as Lois was about a month and a half old. There was still much concern over how friends, family and clients would react. I had received some positive feedback (the negatives would start on New Year’s Eve), but many had not responded yet, one way or the other. As Scotty remarked on an episode of the original Star Trek when he was a murder suspect and he was suffering from memory blackouts, “I can’t stand this not knowing.”
Now there are only a handful of people on my Christmas card list that I haven’t heard from since they were told last year. And there are some other people with things in limbo. But for the most part, that is behind me now. There will always be decisions when new people come into our lives. Who do I tell? When and how do I tell them? That is part of our lot in life as transsexuals unless we are so out there (and famous) that the only people who don’t know just came back from twenty years on Mars or something like that.
Andy Williams was known for a Christmas song that declared that this season is the “most wonderful time of the year.” I agree. There are many reasons for that, especially once we get away from the stores and shopping malls. There’s the story itself: the birth of baby Jesus; the long journey only to find no place to lodge for the night and only having a lowly stable and manger for the place of birth; the angels’ announcement to the shepherds; the birth attended by the shepherds and the animals; the young mother who was barely a woman herself, pondering all the things that she had been told by the angel Gabriel and her cousin Elizabeth and then all the things that happened thereafter; the understanding and goodness demonstrated by Joseph. It is a story that resonates with both Christians and non-Christians. It helps set a nicer mood.
Then there are all the trappings of the season: the beautiful decorations set in contrast to the bleakness of winter in many parts of the world; the delightful music with carols old and new; lovely greeting cards providing us an opportunity to tell others how much they mean in our lives and to keep in touch with friends we rarely see; the joy of seeing someone truly appreciate our gift to them and our receiving a special gift.
And then there are the children. It is precious to see the wonder and delight on the faces of children, whether they are first appreciating Christmas, or having been waiting in anticipation for the big day to arrive. Part of what we see, when we adults watch the children, is our own joyful memories.
Here are some of the things that I remember and associate with Christmas (in no particular order):
Giving – When my family lived in Queens, I remember a well-attended Christmas Eve service just for the children. Our numbers were evidence of being part of the baby boom generation as well as the importance our parents placed on church (at least for their children if not for themselves).
The one part of that service that remains with me to this day (and I was seven years old the last time I attended that church on Christmas Eve) was when row after row of children would file out of their seats bringing a gift for the poor. We would be clutching a can of food or some money, perhaps a toy, and we would lay it before the altar before soberly returning to our seats. During the entire procession, we would sing the following lyrics: “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. But what can I give Him? Give my heart.” There were enough children that we must have sang that little tune at least a dozen times before the very last row made the round trip to the altar and back to their seats.
No wonder these touching lyrics have stayed with me for a lifetime. It was in June, not December, but thirty years later those lyrics finally reached their destination in me. It was then, at age 36, that I gave my heart and my life to Christ.
What we celebrate – I am not ashamed of Christ or the Gospel. So let’s speak plainly. It is Christmas that we celebrate at this time of year. If it were not for Christ we would not celebrate this holiday. This is true no matter what you think of Christ or how you observe Christmas. The word literally means “a mass for Christ”.
There are some, both Christians and non-Christians, who demur because we do not know the actual day of the birth of Jesus. My response is simple. We do not celebrate Jesus’ birthday on Christmas. We celebrate the birth of Jesus. The difference is subtle but profound. Every day, Christians should celebrate the birth of Christ in some way. Any day is as good as another. December 25 is a fine day.
As Christians, we need to be careful about getting trapped in what could become a tangled web. I remember about 20 years ago, a woman in my church had a sincere question. She asked me, “Which holiday is more important, Christmas or Easter?”
I had never considered the question before. I can tell you that the answer came so quickly and without meditation on my part, I know it was the Holy Spirit that supplied the answer. “Christmas made Easter possible; Easter made Christmas necessary.”
Christmas trees – I have nothing against them. A treasured childhood memory is going with my dad and my brother to some lot under the el on Liberty Avenue to pick out our tree. Once it was set up, I enjoyed looking at it decorated with lights and ornaments. One of my early lessons in physics came from placing a large ornament near the top of the tree. As I got older, I would remember some of the more unique ornaments when we took them out of the box.
Another fond memory is my brother and I setting up the toy village and trains. Even though it was a boring circuit around the base of the tree, we would still spend hours playing with it, learning how to control the speed of the train and what happens if it goes too fast around the curve. It is part of my lifelong love of trains. Part of my wish list that probably will not come to pass is having an elaborate model train set.
The major reason that it will not come to pass is the same reason that I have never had my own Christmas tree. My apartment barely has room for me. As I tell people, my apartment is so small that I have to go out in the hall to change my mind!
While my parents were still alive and physically capable of setting up a tree, that was my official Christmas tree, and I celebrated my Christmas with them and my brother. Since that time, there is no room for a tree in this inn.
Family – My mom’s four siblings lived in other parts of the country. My dad’s two brothers lived in the NYC metropolitan area, same as we did. So we spent Christmas every year from as early as I can remember with my aunts, uncles and cousins on my dad’s side of the family. We would take turns as far as whose house we would meet at. My cousins were a good group of kids. I never remember any problems with them at Christmas. It was a fun time with lots of toys and the men secretly wanting to play with some of those toys.
Then we moved to the opposite side of the metropolitan area, the northwest suburbs instead of Long Island where the others lived. In a few years, my aunts and uncles decided that it was too far for them to come to our house, but not too far for us to go to them. It was one of the times that I heard my mom declare, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” From then on Christmas was spent with my immediate family only.
Santa Claus – I caught on to Santa Claus being a fake pretty early on and no longer wanted to visit Santa at the store. My parents’ attempts to keep up the pretense were annoying.
I once heard a pastor preach that he told his children that Santa Claus was a fake as soon as they could understand about Christmas. His reason was simple. If they are told that Santa is real and associate him with Christmas, when they find out that he really doesn’t exist it could also cast doubts on the existence of Jesus. Sticking to the facts about Christmas is something I wholeheartedly endorse. However, I never had children of my own to practice that philosophy personally.
Music – As I shared before, Christmas music brings a host of joys and happy memories. Most of the old favorites are easy to sing. At this point, I am going to switch from prose to a mini-concert: links to my favorites with an introduction to each. We will also have a guest reader at one point. Perhaps you will make these selections part of your Christmas celebration?
Christmas is hope for long awaited prophecy to be revealed. — All Israel waited centuries for the Messiah. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14
Christmas is holiness. — A majestic voice to sing this beloved carol splendidly. Note the marvelous statement of social justice that all Christians should embrace: “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. – 1st Peter 1:15-16
Christmas is beautiful. — This beautifully orchestrated carol is performed by beautiful women, beautifully costumed and beautifully choreographed.
Christmas is love and childlike faith. — This modern Christmas song by one of my favorite musical groups contains some important statements about priorities.
Christmas is a mother’s heart and miracles. — My previous post gives a detailed discussion of Mary.
Christmas is a time for questions and answers. — The singer of this version is a relative unknown (she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!), but her voice and rendition is beautiful. This carol is made for a fine alto voice like hers. Fame is not important to God; the offering of our talents is.
Christmas is humble and prayerful. — The traditional fourth and final verse of this carol is a wonderful petition and a great description of hearts prayerfully prepared for communion. I wish that more of the versions found online contained this verse. In the version I am posting, it is sung as the third verse.
“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell: O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!”
Christmas is children. — The wonder of Christmas is best seen through the eyes of children. This selection is a beautiful blend of children’s voices with Baroque music.
Christmas is light hearts for young and old. — This modern Christmas favorite was done in a new way. It is hard to believe it is about sixty years old now. The video is also relatively old. It was originally created and shared as an exe file, before computer creeps made it too dangerous to download them. After all this time, it still brings a smile to my face. For the full effect, you need to watch.
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19
Christmas is memories and meaningful testimony. — For many people, A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the best memories of Christmas. First seen in 1965, Charles Schulz and producer Bill Melendez had to fight the executives at CBS to keep the animated program faithful to their vision for it. Upon screening it, the executives were sure it would flop and only be shown once. As often happens, the “experts” were wrong. Viewers loved that it was real, not slick, and carried a meaningful message of Christmas against the increasing commercialization of the holiday.
The next two links are from this classic Christmas program: a song and a sweet, lisping voice telling Charlie Brown the real meaning of Christmas, plus some more favorite Christmas carols. Another thing insisted upon that horrified the executives was the use of children, not adults, as the voices. It added to the charm and realism.
Christmas is pure, unbridled joy. — My final selection, from the movie, The Preacher’s Wife, brings a joyful Gospel flavor to one of my favorite carols. There is also the clear message that Christ is Lord. “He rules the world with truth and grace And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness And wonders of His love …”
Shout it out: Jesus Christ is born!!!
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11