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Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Years Eve, 2001

Three weeks after my father's death, I was still making my way across Dallas to the Episcopal Church I'd attended the day he died. I couldn't explain that -- It was still tres strange. I was still fumbling my way through the service to a certain extent.

I just knew that it was helping me, so I kept going and I kept feeling the Grace I'd experienced that first strange Sunday.

Now, what I didn't yet know but was figuring out -- Episcopalians will celebrate no season before its time. So here I was in December, still waiting for the Christmas music that I knew my old Methodist Church would be singing. It was Advent, and Advent is its own season, thank you very much. Advent being a time for preparation, this new church was preparing ... was waiting for Christmas to arrive. (Waiting for the good music, too, if you ask me, and my opinion of that hasn't changed, damn it.)

Christmas Eve was a Sunday that year, and even Christmas Eve? Not much in the way of decorations, and no sign of "Angels We Have Heard On High," or "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" or "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Announcements were made about Christmas Eve services that night, but I knew I wouldn't be going.

So imagine my surprise when I entered the church one week later -- New Year's Eve, as a matter of fact -- to find the church filled with greenery, poinsettias, candles, all the Christmas one could ever desire. And to suddenly have the pipe organ -- and trumpets!!! -- blast forth with "O Come All Ye Faithful."

The procession of choir and clergy began; the place was packed, and holy cow, this being the first Sunday after Christmas, it was the full-on Christmas treatment, even though it was (say what?) New Year's Eve.

And you know what? It was worth the wait.

The music, the decorations, the celebration of life -- I suddenly understood what we were "waiting" and "preparing" for. I was there alone, and knew that for the rest of my friends and family Christmas was but a memory, but for me it was here-and-now and I felt selfish delight in the shock of it.

And it didn't end there.

The final processional was a rafter-trembling "Joy to the World." I was seated near the back so was one of the first ones to leave -- and just as I approached the beautiful old gothic-arched doors, the ushers swung them open with wide grins.

I don't think there's any way to explain the magnitude of this event.


Dallas, Texas. Yes, we sometimes get ice or sleet or freezing rain or even snow.

But this was SNOW-SNOW. The ground was already covered; the flakes were huge and swirling and showed no sign of quitting.

Behind me, pipe organ and trumpets still playing Christmas hymns and candles burning and the air smelling of incense and evergreen --

And in front of me, Currier and Ives.

It was pure Hollywood.

My first white Christmas.

And my very-favorite-ever New Year's Eve.

Merry New Year, to all, and to all a safe night....

See you in 2006!


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