A Wonderful Christmas

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John and Jackie’s beautiful tree

Tom and I had an absolutely wonderful Christmas with John and Jackie.  It started on Christmas Eve with a “Thanksgiving dinner” at their house.  John and Jackie were in Japan at Thanksgiving and we had to work, so none of us had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – until Thursday.  We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, even green bean casserole.  There was apple pie for dessert.  I love turkey, so it was really nice to have Thanksgiving dinner (and turkey for sandwiches the next day).

We played a couple of games, then headed to Linworth UMC for Christmas Eve service.  Linworth has four Christmas Eve services, every two hours starting at 4 p.m.  We went to the third service at 8 p.m.  The church was very full and the service was excellent.  There was a large choir, handbells, a fantastic organist, a good sermon, and – of course – the traditional “Silent Night” with candlelighting.  I especially liked Rev. Graham talking about how every light, except the light of Christ, is temporary.  Only the light of Christ is eternal.

The best part of the going to Christmas Eve service was getting to sit beside John.  John will be 28 in January and I have never been able to sit next to him on Christmas Eve.  23 of those years I was serving a church and leading the service.  Four years I was singing and sitting with a choir.  Last year he was in Pennsylvania.  So this was the very first time I have ever been able to sit with John at a Christmas Eve service.

Christmas Day I started the day with a special time of devotion.  Thank you Jesus for being born.  Thank you God for the gift of Jesus.  Thank you for all my blessings, especially today for family.

Then Tom and I headed back to John and Jackie’s house for Christmas presents.  We waited until a respectable hour (9:30) even though I was up at 6 as usual.  There were plenty of presents under the tree for each of us.  Some had been requested and some were surprises but each one was a delight.  We each picked out our favorite and we took some pictures.  John and Jackie got me a puzzle of Chattanooga that looks just like where we were.  Tom got a new Ohio Northern University hoodie.  John got another battery for his battery-powered lawn mower.  Jackie got “The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki”.  We all got things we really wanted.

We had tickets for the 10:55 a.m. showing of Star Wars so we headed out for that.  I’m not sure when movie theatres started being open on Christmas, but it must be the tradition for some families because they place was packed!*  Almost every seat for Star Wars was sold out all day and they had four studios showing Star Wars.  This was the second time for each of us to see it, but the first time we saw it together.  It was even better the second time – not just because we were together – but because we could pay attention to all kinds of things that we didn’t notice the first time.

We came home and had a nice lunch of Thanksgiving Dinner leftovers, took a walk in the balmy (for Ohio) weather, and played games the rest of the afternoon.  John and Jackie got several games for Christmas so we played “Farkle,” “King of Tokyo” (monsters fighting each other – fun!), “Exploding Kittens,” and “Tsuro” (sea dragons trying to eat your ship – fun!).

We had a practically perfect, wonderful Christmas.  Spending so much time with John and Jackie was the very best present they could have given us.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus in this way made each part of the day precious to me.

Inflatable camper decoration
And Santa peeps out!
Sully and Kira wait for Christmas
Christmas Eve service next to John
Tom got to sit next to Jackie
Jackie likes her anime gift
Tom likes his ONU hoodie
John likes his lawn mower battery
I like my Chattanooga puzzle
Tom has a Minion stocking
Jackie’s stocking is sparkly and John’s has R2-D2
My stocking is a mix of faith and music
Playing “King of Tokyo”
Jackie’s beautifully decorated mantle
A Christmas walk
Merry Christmas from the Hartleys

*I just looked it up, and it turns out movie theatres have been open Christmas Day for a very long time.  “The Road to Rio” with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope opened on Christmas Day in 1947!  I’m sure people who lived in big cities noticed it more than I did growing up in a small town.