According to the traditional reckoning, the 25th day of December A.D. 2000, is the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Saviour of the world, namely, Jesus the Christ.
Now some contend that really Jesus was born somewhere between 7 and 3 B.C., based upon historical records relating to the reign of King Herod of Judæa. Other nearby dates have also been tossed around. But, the fact of the matter is that, in no other year has there been planned or is there being planned any sort of celebration honouring this special, holy, two thousandth anniversary of Jesus' birth.
The City of Bethlehem has been ravaged this year by political conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. No one holds firm sovereignty over Bethlehem. One report says "Bethlehem is under a state of closure that actually bans any movement of people, and largely restricts and discourages the inflow of tourists." There is a choir scheduled to sing at Manger Square on Christmas Eve, but no other recognition of Christ's birth seems to be forthcoming.
Traditionally, there are several Christmas parties held to celebrate the birth of Christ, and I certainly expected the same this year. Thinking ahead, I anticipated being invited to and attending four Christmas parties: one with my Sunday-School class, one with my church choir, one with my English-as-a-Second-Language class that I teach, and one with my colleagues at work. If I were lucky, I might get invited to one with my wife's colleagues at the pre-school where she teaches, too.
The first party I heard of was for my Sunday-School class. I just saw a note up on the chalkboard that said we'd have some sort of Christmas lunch, rather early in December. Although I thought that the party was a bit early, I looked forward to it putting me into the Christmas mood.
The next Sunday (which was a week before the scheduled party), I heard the event announced. I had come in just a tad late, and I did not know any of the details, such as whether or not I was expected to bring anything such as food or a gift, so I asked about it. The answer I received was that I was not invited to the event, for it was exclusively for ladies. I was rather embarrassed. Then the menfolk rub it in as to how silly I was to presume that I might be invited to such an event. I was also deeply upset about the whole affair, but I must admit that it was based upon my apparently ridiculous assumption that a Sunday-School class would normally have a party for all its members, if not any guests, too.
The second party I head of was for the English-as-a-Second-Language group of which I am a teacher. Actually, I just have one student from Ghana myself. But our group as a whole has people from many backgrounds, many not Christian. This party was planned for the Thursday before Christmas, which would fall on a Monday this year. All in the class were encouraged to bring their whole families and to bring some food from their country. I thought this was an excellent way to get to know everyone better and to share about Jesus and his birth with everyone in the class.
My employer has done different things around Christmas time. They used to duly recognise their activities as being related to "Christmas", but Mr. Keatly, a company personnel officer started referring to Christmas things as "holiday" things. Mr. Keatly was a preacher for the federally establisht religion of Political Correctness (i.e., the practice of assigning imprecise, usually long, deceptively misleading phrases to use instead of precise words; foretold as "doublespeak" in 1984).
Nevertheless, for the past few years, they had held "holiday parties" in December. Other years in the past, they had given out certificates for processed turkey or hams. My former employer would always hold a nice Christmas luncheon at a country club or a fancy hotel. This year, my employer said that they would have a lunch in our training room. Something told me there wouldn't be a lot of dancing going on.
The church choir has always had a nice Christmas party. My favourite party was during my term as president of the choir. That year, Miss Collier, the social chairman, arranged that we dine at a new restaurant, whose name I cannot recall, at what is now called Loehmann's plaza at Briarcliff and North Druid Hills Roads. We were asked to bring an inexpensive gift to the party. We had a wonderful dinner. After our meal, we played a game with gifts. Everyone was given a number. The person with number 1 started by selecting one of the gifts everyone had brought and opened it. Person number 2 had a choice: they could also select and open an unopened gift, or, if they liked the gift that Person 1 opened, Person 2 could "steal" Person 1's gift, and Person 1 would have to select another gift. Each successive person had the choice of taking any gift they wanted, opened or unopened; someone whose gift was taken away more or less got another turn, except that they could not choose the gift that was just taken away from them. The game was loads of fun and was repeated, with slight rules amendments, in almost every choir party since then. Shortly after Christmas, Mr. Lawson, the choir director, who is one of the holiest men I have ever known, was fired for undisclosed reasons by the personnel committee, and, although not immediately, many of the people around my age, especially to the college and single folks to whom he had ministered so caringly, got upset with the whacking and the with the state the church was left in, so they found other churches where God's love and peace abounded. Nevertheless, that's another story.
One choir party was held after Christmas. Although not terrible, it was a bit awkward. I think we learnt our lesson that Christmas parties are best held on or before Christmas.
Well, this year, the choir director announced one Wednesday at rehearsal that we would have a Christmas party either on Friday, the 15th day of December, or Friday, the 22nd day of December; we would vote on the date the next week.
Christmas holiday lunch at work came to pass. There was some food, and
I must admit that it was tasty, but most of the people there are atheist intellectuals
who don't have an appreciation for Christ or Christmas. Did we get a chance to
mingle as is done at parties? No – we were given a chance to go
home early, though;
it may be nice, but it's no party.
At Sunday in choir, we noticed a message on the board that said there would be no vote and that the party would be in conjunction with a rehearsal on Wednesday the 20th. "What a cop-out!" I thought. According to my wife, the date of the 15th was ruled out so that the choir director's wife could go to a "Snak 'n' Yak", which is some hen party, presumably for gobbling and gabbing, but I wouldn't know. We were instructed to bring some sort of finger food to the choir rehearsal/party to be held in the parlour.
In the mail, I received an invitation to a Christmas party. It was for a Sunday- School party, although it was for the Adult V department, not the Adult IV department of which I am a member. A lot of my friends are in Adult V, and I suppose we received an invitation because my wife is what they call an "in-service" member of the department (which means she doesn't really attend because she has other ecclesiastical responsibilities during the Sunday-School hour). However, the party was scheduled for the same night as my English class's party, so I did not think I could attend.
I am not sure of the precise order of events, but cancellations came a-rolling in.
The choir party was cancelled due to the fact that they were going to have the weekly family supper at the church that Wednesday night. Of course, they have supper every week, and it was no mystery, but, suddenly, in some way unbeknownst to me, this weekly supper became a reason not to celebrate or recognise the birth of Christ by our choir.
The Adult V party, the one to which I couldn't attend due to the conflict with my English class's party, was also cancelled. I don't know why; I just heard that was the way things were.
Now the only Christmas party left for me to attend was my English party. I was looking forward to this being absolutely wonderful. Although everyone there was not necessarily a Christian, it was to be held in the church parlour, and there would be the opportunity to glorify the Father through the celebration of his Son's birth.
In order to prepare my food for the party, I needed to take the afternoon off of work. However, I didn't especially want to take any vacation time off, so I arranged things so that I could come back to work after my party to finish my tasks for the day.
I went to the grocery market and got ingredients for some food. I decided to make chocolate-chip cookies (they seem American to me, even though I'm not certain about that). In case my cookies didn't turn out right or in case someone doubted their American origin, I decided to bring some indisputably American Twinkies, too.
I used the cookie recipe on the bag of chocolate chips that I had bought. The biggest problem I had making the cookies was trying to find the beaters for the electric mixer. I had to call my wife over at the house of a friend whom she was visiting in order to find out where she had put them. I enjoyed baking as I usually do and looked forward to sharing my cookies with the students and fellow teachers at the party.
As my cookies were in the oven, I received a telephone call. It was from the directrix of the English classes at the church. She told me that she had decided to cancel the party due to the weather, and that I should call my pupil and convey the news to her.
I was disappointed. There were some leftover remnants of snow on the ground from a couple of days ago, but roads were navigable. Don't people kind of expect, even desire, snow around Christmastime?
I called my student on the telephone. I'm not sure whom I was talking to when the phone was answered; people kept on handing the phone to others. The third person I spoke with was my student's husband, who spoke English with great eloquence. I told him of the situation, and I could readily discern his grave disappointment with the situation. He explained how his wife had been expectantly preparing all day for this evening's party in which she could share the foods from her homeland, socialise with her husband with the other students, and enjoy the Christmas celebration. She had been cooking all day. I expressed that I, too, was disappointed. I regret now trying to justify the cancellation by saying that the weather was bad. Although that was the lame excuse given to me, I should not have perpetuated it. But I didn't know what to say. I was so sad.
Instead of going to the party, I returned to work to finish my tasks there, but I was so depressed that I could not get any significant work done. At least I don't think I did any anti-work: that is, do something so awfully that I have to come back the next day and fix all the problems I created during my fit of sadness, misery, and anger.
Actually, we still have church services scheduled for Christmas Eve. Maybe this shall be a holy (that is, special) Christmas after all. Who needs a party when you have the Saviour of the world?