Sunday, December 25, 2005
Christmas Eve along the Carolina Coast
It's Christmas evening and everyone is in bed. I hope your day was wonderful. I don't think I'll write about Christmas day in the blog, but let me share a few memories from yesterday, Christmas Eve, which is even more magical than Christmas day. From this post, you can gleam something of my "raising up" along the coast. Blessings to you all...
Walking along the Masonboro Island side of Carolina Beach Inlet, we’re joined by porpoise 20 feet offshore, swimming in pairs through a deep cut. When they get to the point, between the inlet and ocean, they head further out into the water to where gulls enjoy a feeding frenzy. The birds fill the sky like Japanese Zero’s at Pearl Harbor. Every few seconds one or two of the birds pull back their wings and dive into the water, creating a splash upon impact. Those who get lucky stay fly away with their spoils, those who missed their dinner, return to the bomber squadron and prepare for their next attack. Flipper and his friends join the fun. Fish jump above the water as the big mammals’ dive into their school and feast. One animal’s fun creates terror in another. Soon, the porpoises have had enough and begin to play. Several pair, with the grace of figure skaters, surf. Parallel to each other, they ride the wave, cutting back and forth in unison, only to break away right before it breaks. Others swim in pairs just behind the breakers, their bodies arching out of the water, exposing their dorsal fins in unison. A few minutes later the birds settle down, mostly sitting on the water, bouncing over the choppy swells. The school of fish that provided their midday snack has moved one. Soon, the porpoises leave too. We resume walking on the beach, collecting shells for my daughter to take back to her school.
After our own seafood dinner (crab soup, several varieties of grilled and fried fish, sauté shrimp, hushpuppies and cole slaw), we head to church for the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I watch my daughter as she sits between my mother and me and realize things haven’t changed much since I first attended this service. I’d been just a couple years older than she is now. We sing the same carols and hear the same scriptures read and listen to a sermon on how God works through ordinary folk just like us. It’s all so familiar, yet comfortable in its familiarity. At the closing of the service, everyone holds a candle as we sing Silent Night. My daughter’s face is as serious as her black skirt and red blouse, as she looks into the flame that’s reflected in her eyes. The candlelight makes her blonde hair shine elegantly. I’m glad to be able to share this moment with her at this place where I grew up. I’m glad she can be here with my parents. I’m glad she’s beside my mother. We sing Joy to the World as we leave, our candles still burning and the sanctuary lights still off. At the door, we extinguishing our candles and hand them to an usher so they may be used another year. On the lawn of the church, we stand around and talk. I greet folks I haven’t seen in years. Many have to introduce themselves. Most complain about the cold, but it’s in the mid-40s. Several joke that it mustn’t be cold for me. They’re right. "We wouldn’t be lollygaging outside like this, not if we were up in Michigan," I respond in an attempt to humor them. Soon, everyone heads home. It’s time to get children of all ages to bed before Santa swoops down from the North Pole.