By Candy Chand
Every year, I promised it would be different. Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. But, once again, in spite of my plans, chaos prevailed. I had cut back on what I deemed nonessential obligations: extensive card writing, endless baking, Martha Stewart decorating, and, yes, even the all-American pastime, overspending. Yet still I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and, of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old, filled with hopes, dreams and laughter. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's upcoming Winter Pageant.
I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Not willing to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal in the morning, and that all parents unable to attend the evening presentation were welcome to enjoy it then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, just as I promised, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. When I looked around the room, I saw a handful of parents quietly scampering to their seats. I began to wonder why they, too, were attending a dress rehearsal, but chalked it up to the chaotic schedules of modern family life.
As I waited, the students were led into the building. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat crossed-legged on the floor. The children would become members of the audience as each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment. The Winter Pageant was filled with songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. The melodies were fun, cute and lighthearted. But nowhere to be found was even the hint of an innocent babe, a manger, or Christ's precious, sacred gifts of life, hope and joy.
When my son's class rose to sing "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title. However, within moments, I settled in to watch them proudly begin their number. Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row, center stage, held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his or her portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her, a small, quiet girl in the front row holding the letter M, upside-down! She was entirely unaware that reversed, her letter M appeared as a W. She fidgeted from side to side, until she had moved away from her mark entirely. The audience of children snickered at this little one's mistake. In her innocence, she had no idea they were laughing at her and stood tall, proudly holding her W.
You can only imagine the difficulty in calming an audience of young, giggling children. Although many teachers tried to shush them, the laughter continued. It continued that is, until the moment the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we finally understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For, when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear, "CHRIST WAS LOVE." And, I believe, he still is.
By Candy Chand