Christmas, as carols remind us, is a celebration of the miracle of birth

NEIGHBORS

December 23, 1993|By LOURDES SULLIVAN

What, then, to say about Christmas cheer? Each pastor and priest wrestles with a fresh way to celebrate the holiday.

So do columnists, even struggling ones.

At our house, boxes of decorations shove rough drafts of term papers aside.

We squeeze gift-buying trips between baking sessions, hoping the bread won't over-rise while we sit in traffic.

We desperately juggle holiday parties, family visits and the ironing of linens with the regular round of laundry, cooking and working. We hope for the best.

Tempers fray or, more accurately, unravel like a loosely knit sweater. By the end of the day, we are each a kinked, loose skein of fuzzy wool, useless and ugly.

It is the music that saves us. Lush strings or hip beats, simple ballads or complex meters, the holiday carols soothe us.

No grand miracles happened, the lyrics tell us: only a child was born.

The carols do mention what this child promises to be. But what they celebrate is the astonishing miracle of birth itself, the new, unique, never-before-seen being suddenly among us.

Each birth is a miracle.

Christmas, then, is a celebration of each of us, of our own uniqueness, of our own promise of what we can be. The carols have the benefit of hindsight: they know what this child turned out to be. But it took more than 30 years for that child to get His act together and take it on the road.

So maybe tonight, when I look at my family with exasperation and exhaustion, I'll stop, sing a carol in my mind, and remember the miraculous creature in front of me.

"Beautiful is the mother . . . beautiful is the child. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

*

While you are away visiting relatives, consider asking some of the older members of the family about the Normandy invasion of 1944. The Montpelier Cultural Arts Center in Laurel next June plans to hold an exhibit of photographs of the invasion, in honor of the 50th anniversary.

The center is actively soliciting photographs of soldiers and civilians involved in the invasion. Organizers would like a brief biography of the soldier, such as rank, unit and duties, and additional information about the soldier's life after the invasion.

Organizers also are anxious to discuss exhibiting photograph collections of the military engagement itself and will be happy to discuss this with the owners.

My Dad and I talked several years ago about his experience as a soldier. I had grown up with my father's humorous war stories as a child, (Dad was known as the Great Chicken Liberator of Italy,) but I wanted, as an adult, to hear some of the stories unedited for children.

My father said that, in some ways, World War II was turning into myth. Every cut-rate thriller movie had neo-Nazis as the villains.

"Hogan's Heroes" was a television comedy about bumbling Nazis, Keystone Cop-style Gestapo and boyish heroes in a prisoner of war camp.

Dad wasn't offended by this, but said it was sometimes hard to believe that he had not only lived during that war, but actively participated in it.

World War II was acquiring the same mythical aura the Spanish Main and the Wild West had for him as a child.

The new Holocaust Museum rightly admonishes us: "Never Forget."

We do well to remember the horrors. But we lie if we forget those who challenged and fought that horror.

We do well to remember that they were not cast as heroes, but were ordinary young men and women. And when they finished, they returned to their own lives.

They worked, raised families, aged and retired. They are our kin, and deserve better memorials than a funny TV show.

For more information, call the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center at (301) 953-1993 or (410) 792-0664 or TDD (301) 490-2329.

*

Ray Miles, the director of the Savage Community Choir, is busy playing Santa Claus today. He's delivering the checks gleaned at the "Messiah" concert two weeks ago to FISH of Laurel, Grassroots, the Howard County AIDS Alliance and World Vision.

Just in time for Christmas, when the treasuries are pretty bare, each of the four charities is getting an infusion of cold, hard cash.

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