Last year - 12/21/19 – was a Saturday, and we had just begun Winter Break. Boy, did our family need that time for recuperation.
My three oldest were playing basketball, so we were all over the place each night. My oldest, Noah, was playing in the local recreational league, and also for his middle school. In the local league, his team was playing well, and was destined for a number 2 seed in the end of season playoffs. Sadly, those playoff games were never played, and it was Noah’s last year.
The Pond Road Middle School Knights Boys team was 5-0, having just beaten our league champs in their own gym by 14 points. I saw perhaps the best pass I’ll ever see, in that game. Our point guard and captain (Lucas) took down a rebound and threw the length of the court to our big man (Evan), who had run the floor and was at the rim, for a layup. The entire play took about a second and a half. It was a masterpiece that would have made John Wooden proud. I was having the time of my life coaching all those young-bloods, who are excellent people as well as ballers.
My wife was prepping to serve as interim Vice Principle in an excellent NJ middle school, and also throwing holiday parties as Homeroom Mom for our middles. All this while showing and listing homes as a real estate agent and being the wonderful CEO of the Kilgore homestead.
My youngest, well, he was mostly just cute, but still busy as a bee.
All this activity was wrecking our Advent family meetings, though.
A few years earlier Jessica (my lovely bride) initiated an evening meeting for the family to sit together, read Advent scriptures, discuss, and pray. I cannot put words to how valuable this has been to reorient our family meditation on Christ our Savior in the time of Joy.
But last December was crazy, and we frequently had to double up days we missed because I was just arriving home from an away game, or the boys had late games, or Mom was out showing homes.
December 2020 - there are no hoops or holiday parties, and that is a real drag.
Not everything is bleak, though.
This year our family has not missed a single night to sit together, pray together, listen to our son Luke read the scriptures, and hear each of our boys marvel and pray.
We added something new this Advent and I am so grateful!
One of the great blessings of my childhood was to have learned the joy and belonging of communal family singing. It is something I think has begun to dwindle in the world. I’ve done poorly making it a part of our family tradition, but this year my boys are learning the joy of lifting their voices together in hope, desperation and joy.
We’ve started singing Christmas Carols – Silent Night, Away in the Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, etc - and little Seth starts dancing around while we sing, and he even has some silly little songs of his own – “Christmas Day, Christmas Day, Santa Claus is here, Here’s a deer, there’s his deer, what’s in Santa’s Ear?” Who knows where he got that?
Seth (5) loves to pray, thanking God for the Gingerbread men, the Snowmen, the Star, the presents, and no prayer ever ends without an - “I really hope I get a green car that drives real fast”. Okay, okay, we get the hint.
There is another thing he says in all of his prayers-
“God, thank you for sending the Angels to take care of Baby Jesus, and thank you for keeping Him safe.”
His little child-mind is wondering about that tiny divine bundle, out in the cold of a manger, surrounded by large farm animals and visited by strangers. He worries about Baby Jesus, and his safety. He’s glad God thought to protect him with Angels.
During my last December in Oklahoma, I went to confession. I was really down on myself, full of doubt and self-loathing. My priest (Father George Eber for all you Tulsans) heard my confession and offered this guidance. Go, he said, find a living nativity. Look at the babe, and see yourself there, vulnerable and pure. That is how God sees you.
It is the time of the Nativity, a time of Joy. For those of us who believe in the teachings of Christianity, it is a wonder that defies our notions of power and majesty. If it is true, and I believe, God became helpless, innocent, lovely and small. He submitted himself to the cold of our fallen world.
We faithful (poor shepherds or wandering wise) bow at the animal trough, and peek over the hay at the cooing Creator, and hope against reason that we can be made whole.
Bless you all and may you enjoy the fullness of the Nativity Joy!