“When it’s snowin’ I’ll be goin’ back to my country home…”

This past Saturday my family gathered for one of our favorite annual holiday traditions: COOKIE NIGHT!  Mom makes these delightful sugar cookies in various holiday shapes, and we have fun slopping colored icing everywhere as we decorate them.  Festive music plays in the background, and we all sing along as we paint our cookies.  It’s so much fun!

The other night as we were playing with icing, one of our family’s favorite Christmas songs came around on the shuffle.  It started playing, and my little niece piped up – stating clearly that this was her favorite Christmas song.  We cranked the iPod louder, and all sang together in harmony.

Emmylou Harris released her Christmas album, “Light of the Stable” in 1979.  I’m not sure when my parents purchased that record, but we Kermeen kids grew up listening to that album every year at Christmas time.  These 10 songs have played as the soundtrack to every Christmas season I can remember.  Some songs are better than others, but the entire album makes me nostalgic for family, for Christmases gone by, for a crackling fireplace and sparkling tree.

As an adult, Christmas often seems to have lost its lustre. When I was a child, presents under the tree brought so much excitement, my breath would catch and my heart would skip a beat.  Now seeing presents under my tree makes me remember how much money I spent and the paper-cuts that were inflicted as I wrapped each gift.  When I was younger, I longed to hop from one Christmas party to another – donning sparkly dresses and a little blush and lip gloss.  These days all the Christmas parties on my calendar make me stress about what I’m going to wear, and how long it will take to get there, and do I really have to wash my hair AGAIN?  As a kid I remember the magic of traveling downtown to see the lights on the Circle and riding the train at L.S. Ayres to visit with Santa and tell him all the things my little heart wished for.  Now L.S. Ayres is gone – replaced by a nice department store that just isn’t the same – and I wish for things that Santa just can’t help with.

I got older. My life got harder. Christmas doesn’t seem to have the magic it once did.   But sitting around the kitchen decorating cookies with my family and singing harmoniously with one another to Emmylou Harris sparked some Christmas spirit in me.  Kamryn declared “Christmas Time’s A Comin'” her favorite Christmas song.  My sister, mother and I all merrily sang along with her six-year old voice.  Even my Grandma Alice joined in on a few with us (Silent Night was beautiful!).  Our harmonies may not be perfect, and we may not always remember the words to every song, but I know that our singing brings joy – even if it’s only to ourselves and our wistful hearts.

I can get so caught up in Christmas – the way that the mall wants to define it anyway.  I love the shopping and the wrapping and the entertaining and the decorating.  I stay up too late shopping online or ordering Christmas cards, and then when people ask the next day why I look so tired, I wearily explain, “I was up late doing X, Y, and Z for Christmas. Tis the season!”  Tis the season indeed.

Before I went to Cookie Night, I was feeling stressed about the last few purchases on my Christmas list and wrapping and cooking and parties.  After our Kermeen Christmas Sing-Along, I was reminded that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” This is what matters.  Christ matters.  Family matters.  Joy matters.  Gifts are nice, but Spirit matters.

Thank you Lord for sending your son right when we need to see Him most.  And thank you Emmylou Harris for always being the best conduit for Christmas spirit…

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