One of my most cherished childhood memories is making plates of holiday treats. Every year my mother would emerge from the pantry, arms overflowing with typical ingredients like flour, sugar, chocolate chips, and other holiday only items like those little gold dragees that we used to top the sugar cookie Christmas trees .
Just as essential as to the baking process were the stack of 33s stored in the credenza next to the nativity set. I loved those Christmas albums. Some we bought but most were handed out in November at the gas station when you got your tank filled. They featured a potluck assortment of singers. I can picture the faces of Mel Torme, Doris Day, Jim Neighbors, and Mahalia Jackson smiling at me from the record cover. My sister and I belted along in Spanish to Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” and giggled our way thru John Denver’s “Please Daddy, don’t get drunk this Christmas.”
But the song that always gave me goose bumps as I rolled out sugar cookies was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It was as if Bing Crosby were asking me personally, “Do you see what I see? Heather, do you see the star?” The song would stay with me as we loaded up the station wagon and delivered plates of cookies to neighbors and friends. On the drive home, I remember laying in the way back of the car (seat belts were optional in the 70s) and staring out the back window at all the stars, and feeling blessed by them. Each one a small echo of the star that shone on the stable, alerted the shepherds, and guided the wise men. “Yes,” my heart said. “I see what you see.”
Fast-forward 15 years to the hills above Bethlehem. A big part of the Jerusalem study abroad is to trace the steps of the Savior. One night we stood huddled in the cold as our professor talked to us about what it must have been like to be a shepherd on that night of nights. He read to us from Luke 2. “Yes,” I thought. “I’ve heard this all before. The taxes, the innkeeper, the swaddling clothes.” But to my surprise, the words from verses13-14 pierced my heart: “And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” I closed my eyes and imagined I could hear the angels sing their message, voices full of joy and praise. On that hill, for just a moment, I heard what the lamb heard, and it warmed my soul.
Now I am the mom, hauling out the flour and dragees (Which are sometimes illegal in California–go figure.) and my ever growing collection of Christmas CDs. As we bake we take turns controlling the iPod. I let them play Glee’s version of “Last Christmas” and then I get to crank Judy Collin’s “The Cherry Tree Carol.” They are learning the lyrics to the carols and last night I heard the 8 year-old serenade her 5 year-old sister on the top bunk with the sweetest version of “Silent Night.” I listened in and wondered, do they know what I know? That though life is tough, there is peace to be found in the Gospel of Christ. Truly, He will bring us Goodness and Light.