I love Christmas. I love everything about it. Twinkling lights, trees covered with ornaments from my childhood, my career, and the ones I share with my husband, Christmas music on the radios and at every store, Santa Claus, fancy dresses, and candles.
Candles are one of the most symbolic symbols of the season for me. In New England, you will find a candle in every window, lighting the way to home. At the stores you can find candles to give as a gift to everyone from good friends to colleagues. My home is scented by candles from the day of Thanksgiving until every last decoration is packed away. All of this culminates with the most amazing candle moment, the Christmas Eve candlelight service.
When I was young, about 6 years old, I was going to sing in the church children’s choir on Christmas Eve for the candlelight service and my mom made me the most beautiful navy blue velvet dress. I loved the dress and knew that I was wearing the dress that everyone else would notice. It shimmered and made me feel grown up, or at least like I was 8.
But then, they gave me a candle to hold while I sang. I couldn’t believe the magic and the science of that burning flame. Each face was highlighted by a single glow and yet, in that glow there was a magic puddle of wax. As I examined the candle and sang to my church, I also poured the melted wax down the front of my blue velvet dress, all while my mom watched. We laugh about it today and she talks about the candle and my singing more than my ruining the dress. She does because it was Christmas Eve, the day a small child came to bring us a gift from God.
My faith is important and has shaped many memories such as that night. My faith helps guide me and listen to my heart. I passionately believe that all people should be able to choose their faith and how they celebrate. But have we made religion accessible to individuals with disabilities?
I am watching one family try to figure out how to have their son’s Bar Mitvah when he is still struggling with communicating in English. I watched a family struggle to find a church where their daughter would be able to wander through the sanctuary during the service. I was blessed with the invitation to witness the baptism of one of my students, but he wasn’t able to really speak about the event in a meaningful way later as the communication had not yet been taught.
Where do we but faith in the list of things a child needs to learn?
Have you found a way to include your child with a disability in your family’s faith in a meaningful way? I would love to know how to help families and children in their spiritual journey. And maybe, someday, they will tell us about their favorite holiday symbol.