One of the Walling holiday traditions is watching the classic, Christmas Vacation. Kristen and Ryan have watched it with Linda and me for most of their lives, and we put it on the television again this year while they were home for Thanksgiving. We have memorized virtually every line, and we stop and back up the recording to play through our favorite quotes.
There are other movies that we will watch: I put on Fred Claus every year; Ryan has Elf with Buddy’s (Will Ferrell) four food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup); Linda and Kristen have their Hallmark movies. Other assorted flicks get regular air time when we are together at Christmas: Skipping Christmas, Four Christmases, Deck the Halls, and Santa Clause 1,2, 3, and up. A fight almost broke out this year over the merits of Prancer – I said, Absolutely; Kristen said, Probably; Ryan said, Not even Top 25; and Linda asked, Have I seen it? And yes, we reach back for the classics from time-to-time: White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.
But, I digress – back to Christmas Vacation. In the absurd chance that you have not seen the movie, Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold, a bumbling guy who is trying to pull off the perfect Christmas for his wife, two children, and visiting parents and in-laws. This involves decorating his house with 250 strands of lights, 100 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights. Everything goes wrong: his wife’s idiot cousin shows up; his boss is meaner than Scrooge, and along with his own terrible decisions, soon his perfect Christmas is crashing . . . and by “crashing,” you should be thinking SWAT Team.
On a side note, this is the 30th anniversary of the premier of the movie, which has led to Hallmark creating special ornaments which Linda found and gave to each child. I did even better – she gave me a pair of eggnog glasses that are shaped like a moose head, complete with antlers. (You had to see the movie.)
So, my favorite line above all my other favorite lines, comes when a squirrel gets loose in the house and terrifies everyone. They are hiding behind Clark who is working up the courage to capture the squirrel, when his father steps out, squares his shoulders, and says with determination, I’m going in with him! I hoot and howl. I replay the line five times. I high-five Ryan and promise him that when the moment comes, I too will go in with him.
Yes, that is how a minister’s family prepares for Christmas. We are not proud of ourselves. But what we learned long ago due to the hideous December schedules of not one, but two ministers, is that there has never been, nor will there ever be, a perfect Christmas. We have been left to find the hope and the peace, the joy and the love in the margins amid microwave meals and finding out at 1am Christmas morning that we have twenty gifts to wrap and no scotch tape (see if there’s a Christmas movie on . . . it’s going to be a long night.) Not that you need to worry about us . . . we have always found the Christmas spirit, sooner or later.
As for the first Christmas, my guess is that it was more like the Griswold-Walling Christmases than the ones you see on Christmas cards. A pregnant woman riding a hundred miles on a bouncing donkey . . . no room at the hotel . . . sleeping in a barn . . . scruffy shepherds knocking on the door. A squirrel loose in the stable would have been the least of their problems.
But they found the meaning of the night – the hope, the peace, the joy, the love. They discovered the gift from God. As shall we again this year . . . as shall we.
Blessings and Peace,
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These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.