Meditation (Sarah Brandt)

Celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends is the on-ramp into Advent and the Christmas season. The Christmas decorations come out in the final week of November (at many stores, they are displayed as early as October which drives my husband nuts). Part of my annual ritual is making hot cocoa and listening to Christmas songs as I decorate. I have my Christmas hit list. Much to my family’s dismay, my favorites include Carpenters’ “Christmas Portrait” and Kenny G’s “Miracles: The Holiday Album.” An important part of this tradition is to rearrange the piano music and have my favorite book of Christmas carols and hymns on the piano, front and center. As my ears hear the Christmas music, a memory comes to mind.

I was in elementary school. I had been taking piano lessons and I was finally good enough to play some of the simpler Christmas songs for the family sing-along. It was important for me to play the right notes at the right time and at the right pace. The song that I had practiced was “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” because I knew it was one of Mom’s favorites. Mom and Grandma Esther loved to harmonize. I can hear their voices singing the second and third verses as I type this. Mom standing over my left shoulder and Grandma over my right:

When the clock is striking twelve,
When I’m fast asleep,
Down the chimney broad and black,
With your pack you’ll creep;
All the stockings you will find
Hanging in a row;
Mine will be the shortest one,
You’ll be sure to know.
Johnny wants a pair of skates;
Susy wants a dolly;
Nellie wants a story book;
She thinks dolls are folly;
As for me, my little brain
Isn’t very bright;
Choose for me, Dear Santa Claus,
What you think is right.

This memory is poignant and brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. I ponder a deeper meaning, too. We think we know what we want. Often, our wants and desires are specific; like Johnny and his pair of skates.  We anticipate getting exactly what we wish for. And yet, we often don’t get what we want. In fact, the times when things don’t go as we’ve hoped are when we grow and change the most. We stubbornly think we know what is best for us. Our brains are not very bright. The toughest times remind us of what is most important. The truth is that God chooses for us what He thinks is right.
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