Christmas in July. . .
A Retail Owner’s dream and hope for ‘all the fears of all the years’ or at least this year’s bottom line.
When was the first time you remember hearing of Christmas in July?
It may not be the first time, but it’s certainly my most memorable time–July 1979.
I was a getting ready to start my final year at Lexington Theological Seminary and I was NO Billy Graham in the pulpit. I was taking a mandatory Practice Preaching Class with 9 other colleagues. We listened to each other’s sermons and then, quite brutally, butchered one another in what was suppose to be constructive critiquing.
V I C I O U S !
We gave three sermons each during the Term. It was my third and last one. I, uhhh, I really hadn’t done too well with my first two outings.
This third one wasn’t showing much promise. I had been up all night, being on call at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, to fulfill my Clinical Pastoral Education credits.
I WAS NOT going from a full-manuscript–word-for-word–written down before me, which was highly usual for me at that time.
I was picked to go first for this 8:00 a.m. class and Starbucks had yet to be invented.
I know that my mouth moved but it was my heart that spoke.
I told the story of how I had just celebrated Christmas in July in an all-out-never-stopped-partying-Christmas Party.
“IT LOOKS LIKE IT,” I heard someone mutter, not so quietly from the pew to my left.
I hadn’t changed or showered. I hadn’t eaten or brushed my teeth or, yeah, at that time, my hair. My eyes were red from contacts that needed to be taken out and at least cleaned and, and from crying.
She was a ten year old girl who had gone through two remissions of her cancer but it didn’t look like there was going to be a third.
I don’t remember her last name but I do, some of her last words.
I asked her if she could do ANYTHING what would she like to do?
She never hesitated. She told me, her parents, grandparents and brother, she wanted to celebrate Christmas one more time.
We all jumped into action. I was able to find and get permission to use the storage area where the hospital kept it’s decorations and in a matter of less than an hour or so, we had her room looking like BABES IN TOYLAND, complete with Christmas tree, lights, punch, cake, cookies and absolutely, presents.
We sang carols and ate and RE-MEMBERED…we put back together the pieces of Christmas pasts and adding some memories with enough elastic to expand well beyond our understandings and imaginations. We all held hands and wept as Natalie quietly started singing, SILENT NIGHT.
We Celebrated Christmas…it just happened to be in July.
We read the famous, TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Clement Moore.
I read Luke 2:21: “MARY KEPT ALL OF THESE THINGS AND PONDERED THEM IN HER HEART.” as a reminder to all of us the best way to keep Christmas or any special memory like the one we were in the middle of creating.
Natalie didn’t die that night. . .but she slept in ‘heavenly peace.’
I told Natalie’s story…my story and I noticed for the first time there was a silence I had never experienced before…eery…scary.
S I L E N C E
I realized that even though I wasn’t sobbing my face was wet and I, too, like Natalie, her family and my 9 colleagues and Professor experienced Christmas like we never quite had before.
“Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing”
I sang just above a raspy whisper.
THEY joined in with me as I sang the Refrain over again.
I remember saying, “Christmas in July…Imagine That. . .Here’s to envisioning that we never stop!
I haven’t in in 35 years. . .in fact, I PRACTICE Celebrate Christmas the 25th of each month.
and now I’m offering you that same invitation. . .
Regardless of your belief, religious affiliation or lacks thereof…as sincerely and absolutely as unoffensively as I can:
I love me,
I love you,
I love the World
at THAT most fleeting,
I’d like to make it last…
I’d like to invite YOU to help me!