So here it is. A cumulating ditty, in the vein of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, or the interminable Twelve Days of Christmas, my contribution to the world of music consists of seven verses which pile up in a cornucopia of repetition that only appeals to party goers who have a reliable designated driver.
I have several boisterous grandsons who chime in with me, especially on the loud verse-ending word TIME.
In quieter moments, I have reflected about the philosophical roots of my Christmas song. The word ‘time’ is repeated no less than 42 times – there’s that word again – and I have a feeling that somewhere down deep in my brain or my heart, I really believe that Christmas is all about time.
The Bible tells us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun: to be born and to die, to plant and to harvest, kill and to heal, to weep and to laugh, to mourn and to dance; to tear and to mend, to love and to hate, to make war and to be at peace.
Christmas is, after all, the celebration of a birth; the incomparable gift of time being conferred on another new human being. We focus on a mother and her infant and we envision and experience the joy that a new human life brings to all people.
Joy to the world. Joy to all people who cling to and treasure the gift of time. Joy to everybody, even to the old folks who know they haven’t all that much time left.
A new year is beginning. Another huge dose of days. A fresh serving of weeks and months. Sunrises, sunsets. Rain and snow. Darkness and light.
Things change. Everything changes. That is, after all, the definition of time. It’s the measurement of change. The constant morphing of ‘is’ into ‘was.’
Christmas is a special occasion for remembering. At our house, the ritual of addressing Christmas cards involves laughing again about things that happened long ago. Names we haven’t said or heard since last year. And wondering if they are still alive. Or if they have moved. And didn’t he marry that girl from Toledo?
This year, it was my turn to write a note for our Christmas card. Contemplating the mystery of time provided me with a simple theme.
On the walls of our library, there are four family portraits. The oldest one, taken about 1971, shows a family of eight. Mom, Dad, a gaggle of teen agers and two little ones.
In the next version, there are twelve. We have added three in-laws and a grandchild. Then there is a group of 19, in which little lap and floor sitters are prominent additions.
The last portrait, at the far end of the room, features 30 people. I don’t know what year that was taken, but Amy Hicks was an infant in her Daddy’s lap. She is now a student at the University of Missouri.
I doubt that there will be any more family portraits. Too big a crowd. Too much geography. And undoubtedly more in laws and little ones.
But there is one more picture. A snap shot taken at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. Just the eight originals. All grown up now. Tom is 63 and even Ellen is past half a century.
Polly and I see that picture every day, and every day we thank God for the long and happy life He has given us and our children. We see there around us, the smiles of six good, decent, happy and loving people, who know who they are, where they came from, and where they are going. They have all passed the torch, and so our blessings multiply with each passing year.
As we celebrate again the birth of the Christ Child, we welcome the chance to share the joy of our faith and family with you and yours, and to wish you all the blessings of this Holy Season and the many joy filled days of the coming year.
May you relish and savor all the times of your life.