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Family

children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly

Family

O Come, All Ye Selfish

December 4, 2017 by

As a kid, the one part of December I dreaded was dinner on Christmas day. Every year, without fail, someone from the other end of our apartment building would poke her head into our house a few days before Christmas and say, “We were hoping to have Christmas dinner together with all the families in our house again this year. The other families have agreed. What do you think?”

What can you say to that?

Groan. So much for my Christmas day plans – if this went anything like last year, I would be working on dinner all day. It was the last thing I felt like doing. The Christmas days were always action-packed, and it would have been nice to have some time to gloat over my bulging stocking and break in the pack of colored pencils I hoped to find under the tree.

Shana drawing
the author as a child

Sure enough, although my parents had initially balked at the idea, they now threw themselves into the preparations with their typical enthusiasm, attempting to inspire us kids to action. As predicted, my dad, my siblings, and I spent hours carrying tables, chairs, and dishes over from the community dining hall to the lobby in our house, setting it all up, making place cards for everyone, and building a fire in the fireplace. I growled at my little sisters’ excitement and exploded when the youngest dropped a handful of forks on my foot. Then, when I tried to make my getaway, Mom caught me slipping into my room and gave me an ultimatum: stir the gravy or babysit the now-howling two-year-old.

In the evening, when people started gathering in the lobby, we ran into more problems: Bill and June, an elderly couple, had breathing problems and couldn’t sit anywhere near the fire. We hadn’t set quite enough places for all the people that showed up. I had to sit at a table with lots of old people and no other kids. Bad to worse.

Finally, the meal got underway. Dad was acting as emcee, and since he knew that I wasn’t happy with the situation, throughout the meal he kept making silly faces at me when nobody was looking, or rolling his eyes and winking at me as one of our neighbors recited a long, cryptic poem. Slowly, my irritation and tension faded. June furtively passed me a chocolate under the table. Dad got everyone laughing with an uproarious Christmas story about a crabby lady in a nursing home.

After dinner, everyone pushed the tables against the walls and gathered the chairs around the fireplace (we made sure to seat Bill and June as far from the fireplace as possible). We distributed the Christmas carol collections and started to sing. “O come, all ye faithful . . .” The voices weren’t well trained. Our sound was far from professional, but the words untangled something in me that had felt knotted up all day. O come, ye sour and selfish Shana, I thought, to Bethlehem, where you can lay down your grudges and grumps, your plans and ideas, before the baby in the manger. Here, in the dusty, dank straw, lies Jesus, born for you.

Christmas usually still takes me by storm. This year, I hope I’ll be ready.

As the beautiful old classics soared upward like the sparks flying up the chimney, my earlier crankiness melted away. I had finally forgotten myself, swept up by the singing, lost in the glowing faces around me: my youngest sister’s eyelids drooping as she gazed into the fire; my mom tracing with her finger the lyrics for the first grader. Bill sharing a song book with my brother. Christmas dinner ended up being beautiful, after all, and as we stacked away the last dishes and folded up the tables, the words kept ringing in my head, “O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”

Looking back, the memory of that Christmas dinner illustrates the way Christmas usually still takes me by storm. I’m not always one of the faithful, hurrying eagerly to Bethlehem. More often, I come tripping clumsily in at the last minute, finally dropping the projects and plans that had distracted me till then. This year, I hope I’ll be ready.


Why is the common table so important to us?


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About the author

Shana

Shana Burleson

Shana Burleson works as an editor for the Bruderhof’s publishing house, Plough, and lives at the Fox Hill Community.

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  • Thank you for sharing your experience of Christmas, it's not always wonderful for a lot of people but we need to always remember why we are celebrating.Praise the Lord.

    Lydia Lewis
  • Thank you George, Best wishes to you and your daughter this Christmas.

    Shana
  • Great story! Good reminder to stay present in each moment and enjoy the time with those we're around. Merry Christmas!

    Kristina Hartz
  • An Excellent Article on Christmas Dinner. Thank You Shana..! This year Christmas will be different for us. We will share our food with Orphans and be together. We will try to share our everything with our neighbors. This will make us feel Peace.

    METİN ERDEM
  • Hi Shana, thanks for letting me enter your inner world when you were younger. I plan to attend this Friday at 630pm at the Bellvale's community xmas celebration. every year your dad will invite me if he know how to contact me and every year without hesitation I come out of the gym feeling refreshed after I light a candle for whatever my wish. This year my daughter is undergoing radiation for cancer which was detected upon removal of a tumor from her neck which went into her mouth. She has treatments in NYC until late Dec and we will see the results of the therapy. I am hoping to see some past friends there and of course to light that candle for others which is what Jesus preached with good reason. In family there is strength which was the lesson learned from your youth gatherings and thank you again for your insight in your activities at xmas time.

    George Arnott