Last night, my husband and I took our two daughters to see what we thought was going to be the Story of Christmas--you know, the birth of Jesus and the nativity-- at a local Mega Church. It turned out to be the entire life story of Jesus, complete with a really bloody and realistic crucifixion. It was well done --very dramatic-- if not what what we were expecting. (And also? Jesus kind of had a New Yawk accent so when he said. "Fatha, forgive dem for dey know not what dey do," it kind of sounded like maybe he was talking to the GODFATHER, if you know what I mean.)
We were TRYING to give our kids some connection to the reason for the Christmas holiday but really, it was sort of depressing. I mean, the story IS violent and bloody and we shouldn't ever forget Christ's suffering. I was just hoping more for the "Great Tidings of Joy, babe in the manger" focus and what we got was a slightly Vegas version of the murder of Christ. The show barely touched on the resurrection and then it was over.
Except the part when the pastor asked for converts but...sort of sounded like a used car salesman. I don't know, maybe I was just in a poor frame of mind --my foot was giving me a lot of trouble and I was tired. But the God I know doesn't speak to me through a bazillion decibel sound system, or through a play that was filled with the drama and suffering of Christ's life, but lacking all of the joy, serenity and love I associate with him.
And then, as a crowning touch, Jane (10) had a bad nightmare (all that gore) and we were up half the night.
I decided to take my two dogs for a walk in the woods this morning to clear my head and because their boundless joy and enthusiasm makes me laugh out loud and is contagious. I was a teeny bit apprehensive, though, because the last time I'd taken them, I ran into this red-headed guy who had two Australian Shepherds ON the leash and, um, MY dogs were OFF the leash and wild; barking at the guy and his dogs and not coming when I called. My dogs are bigger than Australian Shepherds and I felt like we were big bullies, picking on the smaller, more well-behaved. I was shouting for them but they wouldn't listen and I didn't even get to apologize to the guy before I had to chase my dogs down and snap their leashes on. (Much scolding ensued.)
So, we set out and before I'd gone 100 yards, I came across this:
It's not a great picture (phone) but it's of a tree along the trail that someone decorates each year. (Last year, I actually came across the fellow as he was decorating it but I was distracted (had lost my dogs --sensing a trend?) and didn't get to ask him why he did it. I did pet HIS dog (a lovely golden retriever) (ON the leash, thank you) and thank him for his festive gesture.) My heart soared.
I let the dogs off of their leashes and marched along happily, feeling the bite of the air but enjoying being out. The woods are so beautiful --it never ceases to renew and inspire me. And then, as luck would have it, we ran into the red-headed guy (Troy) with his two Aussies and they were off of the leash and my dogs played with HIS dogs (Scout barking schizophrenically the whole time) and I got to apologize for how crazy my dogs are and for not having them on the leash. He turned out to be this really cool guy. He said, "It's okay when they're ALL off of the leash because then they just run and play." and "It's always good to run into someone whose dogs are more wild and uncontrolled then mine."
I don't know. Somehow I found the joy of Christmas right then, in the whimsy of a random act of beauty and in the casual, kind interaction with a stranger and fellow woods-lover. Maybe it doesn't have to be any more complicated than that.