When my girlfriend invited me to church on Christmas Eve I hid under the kitchen table hoping she would not find me. She did, however. With no way out, I agreed to celebrate Christmas for the first time. If Jesus could make a sacrifice, I could too.
I didn't go home for Hannukah so it was nice to join my girlfriend's family during the holidays. As a token of my appreciation, I presented her parents with a Rosenblum Shiraz, the Jewiest red I could find. Her dad fixed me a wonderful dirty martini which I drank near the Christmas tree marveling at the many sparkling ornaments.
“Who is the Angel?” I asked. “And how does she know Jesus?”
I felt the man of the hour's presence in the family room as I studied the nativity scene. What a scene it was with lots of Christianity taking place. I embraced the holiday spirits and got reacquainted with my girlfriend’s sister home from Stanford. At the dinner table my girlfriend led grace. I did not thank the Lord, but did thank my girlfriend's mother. We all drank two glasses of wine during dinner and quickly grew tired as a result of the wine and the tryptophan from the turkey. I was hoping we would all fall asleep and miss church. Everyone pulled through except for me.
As we took our seats a great thirst took hold of me. Desperate for a glass I nearly drank the holy water. Chewing gum helped for the moment until I saw the altar boys march through the aisles wearing white robes and waving flags in a scene reminiscent of KKK rally. I nearly choked until I saw a purple flag and remembered there are no gay Klan members. Once the music set in I felt more at ease. A sucker for Christmas music, I joined in song during “Hark the Harold Angels Sing.” The actual version seemed different than the version I sang to my girlfriend leading up to Christmas. The real words to the carol are not “Holy is the Jesus night.”
Before communion, the majority of my row knelt to the ground. I sat up straight and felt prayer books flicking the back of my head. At least I was the tallest person in my row for half a minute. I remained seated during communion next to my girlfriend’s sister. I gave her a fist bump for staying back.
After communion, Pastor Ed Bacon delivered a powerful sermon centered on ending gun violence in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. He thanked the many congregants and guests and even folks of different faiths for attending. So moved by his graciousness, I put $3 in the basket, the most I donated all year to any religion. I even sang the final carol the “First Nowell” extra loud, or especially off key, according to my girlfriend. I survived church and could hardly contain my excitement for opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
Attempting to pull my car into the driveway for the night I could not turn the steering wheel. It was locked. I tried again and slammed on the break as the car slid down the hill. No luck restarting the car. Was God punishing me for going to church?
"We'll call AAA tomorrow after we finish opening the presents," my girlfriend announced. The sheer number of presents under the tree amazed me. We needed to call AAA to help us open presents. We sat by the fire opening gifts. We ate breakfast and then opened more gifts. Gift giving was seamless. I only gave one gift to my girlfriend's sister that was in fact intended for my girlfriend. I received new bed sheets, kitchen utensils, personalized stationary and a brand new edition of Monopoly and later a new battery from AAA.
My girlfriend appreciated the gifts I gave her, a lot more so than the Hannukah collection of TJ Maxx toiletries with the price tags still on. Towards the end of the holiday we christened my new Monopoly game. I moved in on properties aggressively snagging Broadway and Park Place early in the game. I dominated the board and became the Jewish property owner collecting rent from everyone on Christmas.
For a first timer, I think I behaved pretty well on Christmas. There was no real reason to hide under the kitchen table. It's not like Easter.