The theme of this year’s Advent devotion is: Do you see what I see? An array of St. Paul voices selected a photo or photos that hold very special memories to them, then sat down and reflected on what that photo means to them. What do they see and remember that others may not when looking at this photo? Through their words and stories, hopefully, you’ll see a little of what they see.
My family loves to joke around. The kind of joking around that might actually get under the skin of our target at the time, but is always in good fun. On top of being jokesters, I would say that we are also very reactive. Due to this, the target of most pranks usually gives the exact reaction that everyone is looking for. I don’t remember when it started, but when I was very little, we started a Christmas prank that has lived on for years and has become a personal tradition for me.
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is all of the beautiful décor. Both of my grandmas take great pride in decorating their homes for when we come to visit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My maternal grandma’s decorations typically include a beautiful nativity scene right beside four building blocks that spell out “Noel”. Well, it just so happens that my grandpa’s middle name is “Leon”. You can probably see where this is going…
If you’re lucky enough to know my dad (Jeff Carroll), you most definitely know that he is the ultimate prankster. No one is safe, not even his father-in-law. I remember being super little, but old enough to spell, and watching my dad switch around the “LE” and the “ON” blocks so that they spelled out “Leon”. I distinctly recall the anticipation growing while waiting for my grandpa to notice, because I knew his reaction would be priceless.
It took some time, but eventually, while we were all in the living room, he noticed. His reaction was phenomenal and we all shared a laugh. Of course, he switched the letters back. It quickly became a game of how often and how long we could switch around the blocks without Grandpa noticing. To this day, if the blocks are out, someone will switch the letters until he notices and of course, switches them back.
I feel like this memory encompasses all that Christmas is for my family. It is time spent together, time spent remembering, time spent joking, and time spent getting under each other’s skin; in a loving way, of course. “Noel” means “to be born”, and as we are all well aware, someone really special was born on Christmas. I think it’s powerful to look at what else has been born around the Christmas season. Whether it’s a new traditional prank, or the Messiah, wonderful things are “born” during this time.
Bailey has been a lifelong member of St. Paul and is the oldest daughter of Jeff and Jamie Carroll. She currently resides in Iowa City where she teaches 9th and 10th graders at City High School.