Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Christmas Break: Rogersville & Washington

Wrapping up our Christmas Break coverage here in Annales, I thought I'd give you a brief overview of how things have progressed since we last left our protagonist upon his return to the Promised Land.

DECK THE HALLS

The first thing I noticed upon my arrival home, besides how much I missed the mountains, was how beautiful Peaceful B Farm (our house and grounds) looked.

This year, my mom and dad truly outdid themselves in decorating our house and grounds for the seaon. When my sister and I were younger, we always encouraged mom and dad to put up Christmas lights on our house; since we were so far out in the country, where there are no street lights, our house always sparkled as a jewel in the middle of the valley.

And with our Star of Bethlehem proudly pointing the way to our Nativity scene inside, the decorations were both tasteful and faithful.

For Christmas 2005, mom and dad decided to take a more subtle approach to decorating the house, choosing to emphasize the rustic beauty of our two-story log house, built circa 1850.

This year, plain wreaths with bright red bows and ribbon adorned all of the windows of the house's front, with wreths on either side of the front door, and evergreen garland surrounding the door frame. Instead of white lights, the usual choice of our family, three ground-based flood lights illuminated the classic Christmas decor.

On the side facade, the entrance to our home that we use, evergreen garland, lighted by white Christmas lights, combined with red ribbon bows to festoon the porch; twin, lighted wreaths surrounded the door, and evergreen garland surrounded the door frame.

Out on the road, our perimeter fence, a wooden, four-railed fence painted the color of our home's highlights, took large evergreen fixtures with garland extended to either side of the entrance-way, boasting bright, red ribbon for bows and trim.

Overall, our home looked very beautiful with the Christmas decorations highlighting the many strengths of our one hundred and fifty-five year old home.

TENDER, TENNESSEE CHRISTMAS

With the decorations in place, it was time to get ready for the celebrations of the our Savior's birth which we observe every year: the annual Christmas Eve Family Gathering.

As in the past, my mom's brother (my uncle), Dick Templeton; his wife, Debbie Templeton, their daughter (my cousin), Tara Templeton Harrell; and Tara's husband Jacob Harrell joined my dad, mom, and sister in gathering at our house for the festivities.

We always have hors d'oeuvres and punch, while we catch up on everything that our family has been up to since we have seen each other last. We usually call my grandmother, who lives in Indiana, and my aunt, uncle, and cousin who live near her in the same city.

Finally, we all exchange gifts, before everyone heads home.

After our guests leave, my mom, dad, and sister join me as each of us opens one present that we have for each other. Then, we go to bed, usually in order to get up and take care of our Christmas Day activities.

This year, unlike in years past, Christmas fell on a Sunday, and so this year, we went to church on Christmas. A certain clarification is necessary here, I believe.

Though I was unaware of this before I went to Vanderbilt, it is traditional for most Christians to attend a church service around 11 pm on Christmas eve, in the custom of the Midnight Mass or Vigil Mass on Christmas eve (which was adopted by many of the Protestants after the Reformation).

As a Southern Baptist, evangelicals largely rejected (in a case of over-reaction) the Christian liturgical calendar; our celebrations of Christmas and Easter, with some churches remembering Advent, are remnants of the calendar (note well that as I have grown older, I have found quite a bit of value in the grand traditions of classical Christianity, including the liturgical cycle of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, and I have -- as noted on this blog many times -- done my best to begin celebrating them regularly).

At any rate, when evangelicals rejected the liturgical calendar, that included the practice of services on "holy days" that are not Sunday. As such, it is not normal for evangelicals to attend church on Christmas; indeed, evangelical "festivals", at least in most of the South, have developed around the civil calendar, with churches recognizing Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Mothers' Day, Memorial Day, Fathers' Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans' Day instead of the traditional Christian seasons.

Of course, I'm now delving into a historical analysis of the divergences of Evangelical Christianity from classical Christianity, an interesting rabbit chase, but one for another time.

So! Back to our family's celebration. Since Christmas was on Sunday, First Baptist Rogersville was holding services as normal, except that Sunday School (Christian education and Bible study held for all ages before worship services) was cancelled in order to give every family a chance to celebrate together.

Because Sunday school was cancelled, our family opened our Christmas gifts before church (mainly so that we could wear some of our new clothes to church). I received a new camera (hooray), since my old one was broken, along with numerous clothes and other items.

The service was beautiful (as I've discussed earlier in my blog), and I certainly appreciated the opportunity to worship God in that way.

After church, our family returned home for a grand dinner, consisting of baked turkey, dressing, baked and honeyed ham, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, green beans, macaroni shells and cheese, peas, rolls, cranberry sauce, and gravy all around. There was sweet tea, and there was home-made fudge and candies (thanks Mom) for dessert.

We rested, and we enjoyed our time together.

CHRISTMAS NIGHT

The night after Christmas Day, Christmas Night, is always a night of tradition in our family, where we attend a movie together. This year, we did the same, and our family went together (the first time in quite a while) to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at the Cinema Four in Rogersville.

Though dad was initially not too thrilled about seeing what he termed as "a kid's movie," the whole family enjoyed the movie and its moving message. If you still haven't seen Narnia, you should. Or at least read the books.

KNOXVILLE-TO-DULLES

After Christmas, I was preparing to depart the Promised Land for Washington, to visit Kat and her family for New Year's.

I flew out of Knoxville into Washington-Dulles, on the Virginia side of the city. Kat picked me up, and it was so good to see her. Even though we'd only been apart for two weeks, it seems as though the time we spend together is like a small sip of an elixir that one longs to drink completely.

It was good to see Katharyn's family, again, too. I hadn't visited them since July, and it was amazing to see how much Fran, Katharyn's little sister, had grown in the six months since we had last been together. She's sixteen, now, and I was commenting to Kat that it seems as though I have watched Fran grow up: after all, she was in the sixth grade when I first met her -- now she's a sophomore in high school.

In only two short years, she'll be choosing, hopefully as her brother and sister did, to go to college. It's hard to believe.

KAY-DEE TIMES

Seeing Kat was great. We spent lots of time just hanging out and talking, and we saw some of her friends from high school.

We spent New Year's at a dinner party with her family, followed by some time downtown, and finally watching the ball drop together with a little celebratory, carbonated, fermeted grape juice.

The next day, I had to fly home, much to both our chagrin.

MAN YOUR BATTLE-STATION

Despite a generally fun and relaxing break, there was some sad news (in addition to the sad story of the miners trapped in West Virginia). I found out over the break that my roommate, friend, and brother, Second Lieutenant Scott Williams, has been pulled from law school to go to active duty with the United States Army.

Scott should be in Missouri by this time, beginning Officer Basic, which is basically a refresher in the practical skills of being an Army man that Scott already knows from his time in R.O.T.C., but that the Army wants to thoroughly impress upon Scott, and his fellow newly-commissioned officers, before they serve in the field, leading troops.

While Scott is excited about this opportunity, I am worried (unlike Scott) about his safety in the future, in addition to being disappointed that I was losing a friend in Birmingham.

The Lieutenant assures me, however, that he'll be fine, and that he'll be having fun (and probably more than me).

Keep Scott in your prayers, along with all of those serving our country in the armed forces. They're good people.

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH

With Christmas Break all but concluded, it's time to return to the Heart of Dixie for Law School, part deux. I'm a seasoned veteran, now, and really the only thing that worries me is finding a job for this summer (oh, and if any of you Hizeciheliphiles would like to offer me one, please leave your name and email address in a comment below).

I hope you had a wonderful Advent, Christmas, Hanukah, or New Year's, or whichever variety thereof you celebrate (after all, just about everyone I know can celebrate at least one of those).

FEELING: Rested
LISTENING TO: Beethoven's Mass in C Major, Movement II, "Gloria"

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