• It's the week of Christmas parties in the church:  Jie's district Christmas party last Saturday night, her Pesotum congregation here at our house yesterday, two Mattoon Sunday School classes having a combined party today, the children at Mattoon having their musical (with a dinner) today, the Mattoon Bible Study group party Tuesday, and the Mattoon staff party this coming Saturday.
  • Reading Gary Grossman's novel, Executive Force, a most unChristmas-like book about a North Korean attempt to assassinate American politicians.  It's keeping me hooked.

December 16, 2018
Scrooge Christmas Lists
December is my time to make lists...and check them twice.  So, here is my list of lists.

There is the list of things to be done to the house.  It is my job to cut the tree, set it up, and hang the Santa ornament: the one where he is relaxing in his blue shorts, sunglasses, and Cubs tee shirt.  My list includes finding someone else to decorate the rest of the tree.  I will pull out the box of other house decorations and let Jie know she can hang them up wherever she likes.  NOT on my list:  decorating the cat, the car, or myself.  I will not wear Christmas paraphernalia:  ties, hats, etc.  So don't get me one, please.  Or it will show up in the next party I have to go to that has a White Elephant gift exchange...Ugh!

Then there are the lists of what to buy people.  It has become the custom in our family to give each other the "pre-Christmas" lists of what we want others to give us.  I think this was started by my daughters) who opened too many gifts from me that evidently missed the mark).   But in my mind, a  present  should be a surprise...otherwise, why bother to hide it in wrapping paper? Christmas is where I like to go rogue on the family...disappear off the radar... then come up with something that shows I've been paying attention to what someone would really like.  

Of course, there are many times, after opening one of my gifts, that my daughters will try to encourage one another:  "Remember, it's his thought that counts."  But the recipient will usually mumble back, "No, it's the thought that's the  problem!"

I guess giving each other want lists at the beginning of the season is the lesser of the two evils, since I also get crabby about spending good money on gifts someone doesn't want.  
There used to be a Christmas card list.  I love getting cards from people.  But I'm a flat out failure when it comes to sending them. I can't remember the last time I made out a list of who should get a card from me.  That list isn't even on my list of things to do anymore.  This Sunday Letter has been my de facto Christmas card for several decades now.
I also have a list of places and people to visit at this time of year. It includes people who don't get out much, relatives (who now live all over the place), and places that go all out with lights and decorations.  When I lived at Glen Carbon, the light show at Lady of the Snows was always on the list. When I lived in Urbana, we always took a cruise down Candlestick Lane.  Here in Mattoon, we make two or three drives through Peterson Park.  

When we lived in Granite City, we drove out to Pontoon Beach and marveled at a house near Route 111.  It was so gaudy that we continued to drive over there for years after we'd moved away. It was the worst decorated house I've ever seen.  I'm pretty sure the people who lived there could get a psychological disorder named after them. Even the girls were rolling their eyes at it...by the time they were in the fourth grade.
Then there is my list of songs to sing.  I'm at an advantage since I pick out the hymns on Sundays...so I can make sure we do "The First Noel", O Come All Ye Faithful", "Angels We Have Heard on High", "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming", and "In the Bleak Midwinter".  I can also make sure "O Holy Night" gets sung on Christmas Eve.  

It is the time for me to listen to recordings of Handel's Messiah...several times over.  (But I fall asleep at live concerts of it.)  I also like Michael W. Smith's "Anthem for Christmas".  But when it comes to secular Christmas music, I'm a true Scrooge.  Even "Jingle Bells" irritates me.  Maybe I'll go to a shrink sometime and try to figure out why.
Christmas movies compose another list.  I enjoy Hallmark holiday movies, even tearing up during some of them.  (It irritates me that I'm letting all of you know that!)  My list also includes "It's a Wonderful Life", "Holiday Affair", "Christmas in Connecticut", "White Christmas", "It Happened on Fifth Avenue", "Miracle on 34thStreet", and "Joyeux Noel".  

"Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is fun, even though its technically about Thanksgiving.  And "Home Alone" still entertains.  But I got a bit cranky with "Christmas with the Kranks" last year, and found myself disliking the overdose of idiocy in "Christmas Vacation."  I fast forwarded through it last year. 
And then there are the food lists.  Each year I eat a little less, because gaining weight makes me cantankerous.  But the list always includes chocolate Covered Cherries, eggnog, and fruitcake.  But don't expect me to sample just any of these candies, drinks, or cakes. I'm particular.  It has to be dark chocolate covered cherries, non-alcohol eggnog, and alcohol infused fruitcake...or as Wikipedia puts it, "a cake...soaked in spirits".  People who know me well will tell you that my entire annual consumption of alcohol comes from strictly from fruitcakes.  I'm dead sober the rest of the year.

Looking through the Wikipedia article, I suddenly realized that my intellectual background on fruitcake has been lacking.  But not anymore!  For example, according to the internet, it is not sophisticated to put butter or cream on your fruitcake.  It is, however, permitted to bake butter into your fruitcake.  In 1490, the Pope himself issued a decree, known as the "Butter Letter" giving express permission to use butter in the baking of fruitcakes.  

I would go on regaling you with my new fruitcake knowledge, but since it is strictly limited (at this time) to Wikipedia, I'll let you check the article out for yourselves.  
Finally, there is one list that doesn't make me cranky:  making sure I see the Advent Candles as they are lit...and enjoying the carols and candlelight of the Christmas Eve worship.  

My wish for you is this:  may you only be around people like me when we are happy!  Merry Christmas!  


 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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