Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (5): Little Drummer Girl


I have no gift to bring
That's fit to give a King...
Shall I play for you?

I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him.
Then He smiled at me.

I thought I would go back to my original intention of The Twelve Blogs of Christmas and pick an obscure Christmas song lyric that oddly relates to my life.  This one comes from two different vereses of The Little Drummer Boy.  I realized it's hard to think of that song without the excess "pa rum pa pum pum rrrrrum pum pum pum" interludes but in the words above I think there's a pretty profound encounter with Christ going on.  The drummer boy is lamenting - in the line just before the ones I chose - that he is a poor boy, just like the Christ child.  Unlike the magi with their extravagent offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the fictional percussionist has nothing to give...except his service.  He realizes that although he has no material goods, he can do for Jesus what he is good at doing: he can drum. In the next verse, following some poetry about musical barnyard animals we find that the drummer boy not only plays for Jesus, he plays his best for Jesus.  I think that's the offering that God is always looking for.  And the next line always gives me a little chill - "Then He smiled at me".

There's something about Christmas that sends the volunteerism bug echoing through people.  There's that goody-goody happy feeling that people get when they help others and with a sort of infectious cheer everyone jumps on that band wagon at Christmas time.  But I wonder if maybe there's an even better reason to serve.  Maybe by giving the gift of ourselves, giving the very best of ourselves, we can bring a smile to the face of God.  What better reward for the gift of serving - and not just any efforts, but our very best - than to see God smiling? 

For the seventh year in a row Tony and I are serving at the East Aurora Gift Mart with Community 4:12.  For those that haven't heard me gush about this awesome event, our church partners with other churches and businesses to collect a massive amount of new toys ($6-20 each).   We then bring these toys over to schools in East Aurora and while we host a Christmas party for the kids at the schools, we set up a gift mart and sell the toys to the parents for $2 each.  The money raised then goes back to the schools.  It acts as a win-win-win situation in that the children have a blast, the parents get affordable gifts while still having the dignity to purchase their own, and it's a fundraiser for the schools.  We call the model giving a hand-up rather than a hand-out.  Seven years ago we began this endeavor at a single school in East Aurora.  Now we have two gift marts in East Aurora serving four different elementary schools as well as a gift mart in East Joliet too.

At multiple events throughout the year - and especially at Christmas time - serving always reminds me of The Little Drummer Boy.  I don't have a lot to give God in terms of material goods.  My entire yearly salary is probably less than what some people at my church tithe.  But I can serve.  That's the song I can play.  And I will play for Him.  And I will play my best for Him.

Then He smiled at me.
Me and my drum.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas (4): Prancer's in a Mini-Mall Near My House!

I can't tell you how many years it's been since I've seen the Christmas movie Prancer about a young girl who finds one of Santa's errant reindeer and hides him in a barn to nurse him back to health, but in every preview for the movie (on TV or back in the day when it first hit theaters) there was one line that was always played and it's when the girl cries out, "Prancer's in a shed near my house!"  If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.  There is no shed by my house so it turns out this year Prancer decided to hang out at the mini-mall near Costco.

I think he recognized my hat....

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: (3) Santastic

In a follow up to my previous post about my favorite accessory, I invented a new word.  (It's been a while since I've come up with one...)  I give you:

Santastic: (adj) portmanteau of Santa and Fantastic; used to describe something that exudes Christmas spirit and brings joy, happiness or brightness to someone else in the manner of Santa Claus bringing smiles to children. 

Go on, use it in a sentence and add it to your vocabulary. Example: "The Christmas movie Elf is Santastic!"  "My friend Lisa is filled with randsanity or maybe just Dewfeine.  She went around town all day on Saturday in a wacky holiday sweater and a santa hat.  She's so Santastic!"

Wishing you a very Santastic holiday season!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: (2) My Favorite Accessory

On Saturday, to celebrate my mom's birthday we gathered my whole family for "Breakfast with Santa" at my parents church.  Yes, it was a little bizarre to be one of the oldest people there without children, but it was fun to have the whole family together and celebrate the coming holiday as well as my mom's birthday.  And in honor of the holiday spirit I donned one of my favorite winter accessories: my santa hat.

It was a convenient addition to my outfit in that it kept my head warm and also concealed my less than neat hairdo resulting from my hurried shower and incomplete drying of my hair (we had to be there at 8am and Tony wasn't home from work until 9pm on Friday, you do the math).  Plenty of people were sporting the Kringle chapeaus at the event but the rest of the day was rather amusing.  Seeing as how I commited myself to a day of hat hair, I decided just to leave the hat on as I went about errands and activities for all of Saturday. 

My first stop was Costco.  In line at Customer Service, a man walked past me on his way out the door.  He glanced my way and then after passing me, backtracked three steps, and leaned over to conspiratorially tell me, "I gotta say, I love the hat."  This brought almost as much of a smile to my face as in the center of the store when a gentlemen pushing a cart carrying two kids walked by me.  He didn't pay me much notice, but his two kids spotted my bright head head and pointed me out with cheers of "SANTA CLAUS!!"  I smiled and waved like a minor celebrity.  Multiple other smiles and giggles were passed my way throughout the shopping trip and through the various other stores I visitied that afternoon.  And of course I was met with more than one "Feliz Navidad" as I joined my parents at a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

I've never had a problem making a fool of myself to bring others happiness.  I don't know what it is about a red furry hat that brings a smile to the faces of strangers, but I'm more than willing to spread that small bit of cheer however I can.  Plus, it really was a nice way to keep my head warm...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: (1) The Gift of the Magi

I want to resurrect an idea I had on my blog a few years back (December '05) where I had 12 blogs in the month of December that all dealt with a theme of Christmas.  Previously I focused on Christmas songs, but this year might be a bit more varied.  Enjoy!

Over on her blog and also on Facebook, my friend Ellen asked a question about favorite Christmas books.  I have a decent number of books tagged "Christmas" in my LibraryThing account (see the search box on the right if you're curious) but after I posted her my reply, I thought of another favorite Christmas story that I haven't thought about for many years.  It's a short story, so it didn't come to mind right away when I thought of Christmas books, but it remains a favorite nonetheless.  It's by the author O. Henry (a wonderful pen name as well as a candy bar) and the story is called The Gift of the Magi.

The story is in the public domain so if you click the link above, you can get the whole text of it, and if you've never read it, I highly recommend doing so now.  Go on, O. Henry is a much better author than I am so you'll enjoy it much more than my ramblings.  I reread it the other day and it hit me as especially profound in today's world of economic hard times.

I'm one of those people that delights in gift giving and I'm ashamed to admit that I love giving expensive gifts too. But recently I've been leaning towards more inexpensive but thoughtful gifts and it's left me ruminating on the short story.  Instead of showing off possessions that inspire envy in others, I would rather people look at Tony and I and realize that we give gifts wisely.  It's why a portion of our Christmas shopping is for people in East Aurora that we've never met as well as for my awesome nieces and nephews.  It's why even before we start spending for family we send money through Compassion for a gift for the child we sponsor.

So in light of Black Friday (yes I was shopping at 3am) and Cyber Monday (I still can't be persuaded that online is the way to go), and our continuing difficult economy, I thought I'd share this story about the theme of giving.  My favorite part is the quote,

"Let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."  - O. Henry

Hope it touches your heart as it has mine.