Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Mickey Mouse Kind of Christmas

We spent Christmas at Disney World one year.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sara was eleven and Joshua was fourteen and Debra and I were younger than we are now. Our family has always dearly loved the Christmas season; we still do. Sometimes, though, the buildup is so intense that the letdown is precipitous. So Debra and I got the idea of taking a nice, exciting trip for the holiday. I called a travel agent and faster than you could say “MasterCard” we had purchased a nice package deal. We’d fly out of Nashville on Christmas Eve morning at 6:00 and arrive in Orlando later that morning to begin five days of Christmas fun in the sun with about a zillion of our closest friends.

So we packed up our clothes and our toiletries and our presents and we went to bed early on the night before Christmas Eve. We awoke the next morning to find Nashville covered in ice. I understand now that if you have any question about the status of your flight you really should call the airline before you go to the airport but we didn’t do that. We made several very careful trips out to our car and loaded our suitcases into the trunk.

Then we tried to leave.

Those of you have lived in or visited Nashville know that it is quite hilly. The street on which we lived dipped right in front of our house. In one direction was a slight incline and in the other direction was a more significant incline. The path we needed to take took us in the direction of the slight incline. The wheels of the car began to spin but the car wasn’t going too far. The ice was preventing us from gaining traction. But we finally made it off our street. Then we turned left to head toward the airport but that road was so icy we couldn’t navigate it. We had to turn around and go another way. At that point I was wondering if we’d ever make it to the airport and if we did what we’d find. But we pressed on.

We did make it to the airport and what we found was a parking lot so covered with ice that you couldn’t see the lines that separated the rows of parking spaces from one another, much less the lines that separated the individual parking spaces. So we just parked beside a car that was parked beside another car that was parked beside another car. If they towed one of us, I figured, they’d have to tow all of us. We checked our bags, checked in at our gate, and in a little while boarded our flight.

Only when we were aloft did we learn that the flight had almost been cancelled; the plane that was supposed to take us was not able to leave another airport because of the same storm. The airline had brought a plane in from Atlanta in order to avoid canceling the flight.

I don’t think of Nashville and Orlando being all that far apart, but I guess they are. The temperature in Nashville when we left was twenty degrees. The temperature in Orlando when we landed a couple of hours later was eighty degrees. We rode a bus from the airport to Disney World where we checked in to our very nice room at the Caribbean Beach resort.

And then we started doing the Christmas stuff you do when you’re spending Christmas at Disney World.

We rode rides. The Tower of Terror at Disney MGM is my favorite. We ate food. It was so-so but it was expensive. There is one section of the park that looks like a normal neighborhood. Disney had brought in the Christmas lights display that some fellow had put up at his house for years until his neighbors complained so much that he had to stop doing it. I guess that Disney World doesn’t get such complaints. They gave you 3-D glasses to wear as you walked through the neighborhood that created the effect that angels were flying at your head. That was neat.

One night we went to the Polynesian Resort for a Christmas dinner show. We had a nice meal, listened to some Hawaiian Christmas songs, and watched some dancers perform some Hawaiian Christmas dances. I didn’t know there were such things, so it was an educational experience for me.

From listening to people talk I gathered that some families spent every Christmas holiday at Disney World. I suppose that if your family is scattered all over the country there are worse places to use as a gathering place.

I was amazed, though, at how many people were there. There were thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of them. We didn’t even see the famous Disney Christmas Parade because we couldn’t get to it for all the people. The Animal Kingdom had just opened that year so we decided to visit it; we lasted about two hours because it was impossible to do anything because of the crowds.

All in all it was a nice trip. It was a little odd, though, to go to bed on Christmas Eve with no Christmas tree and with the presents just piled up on the floor. We woke on Christmas morning and gathered on the hotel room beds to open our presents. I don’t remember any gifts in particular, but I think that everybody liked what they got. And I don’t remember which of our children said it or maybe they both said it at the same time, but one or both of them said, “This is nice. Let’s don’t ever do this again.” What they meant was that they wanted to be home for Christmas. There are lots of nice places in the world, and they both love Disney World, but to them, there was no place like home for Christmas.

I learned a valuable lesson from that Mickey Mouse Christmas. When it comes to Christmas, the simple is more valuable than the spectacular. We had a spectacular trip. But we really missed the simple Christmas of home.

Now, some spectacular things happened on the first Christmas, to be sure. If you could ask the shepherds, they would testify to the spectacular. Angels appeared to them, after all. But, even though something miraculous was going on in the coming of his Son into the world, God chose to work for the most part in simple ways and through simple things: a baby being born, for example.

I learned that Christmas that when it comes to Christmas, simple is better. I hope that my family and your family will always keep Christmas in the simple ways that bring the most joy. Such Christmas keeping honors the Savior who was born to a simple family in a simple stable in a simple town for a simple purpose: to show the love of God.

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