Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas

This time of year I get really busy. There’s shopping to do, holiday cooking and baking, Christmas cards, gifts to wrap and ship, and of course the exactly right Christmas tree (always a Douglas fir at our house) must be found and cut down at a U-cut tree farm by the whole family. I love living in the Pacific Northwest, where Christmas trees are grown for the whole country. It means we can cut our own fresh tree every year without paying a fortune.

Sometimes I long for the days when I was a kid, with nothing to do at Christmas but wait for it to come. But I still love Christmas. Sitting in the dark just looking at the sparkling tree glistening with tinsel and colored lights, my husband’s arm around me as we listen to carols on the stereo, fills me with that indescribable glow that’s one part anticipation, one part family warmth, one part a sense of peace and one part chocolate chip cookies.

I remember how magic Christmas was when I was little and believed Santa was going to come down the chimney. I always left some cookies out for him, plus a little treat for his reindeer too. When I stopped believing in Santa, there were some years when Christmas felt-- well, empty. It was fun getting gifts and all, but when Christmas had been magic, it was a real let-down when suddenly it wasn’t anymore. The wonder was gone, and with it, a lot of the joy.

I never said “Bah! Humbug!” But deep in my heart, part of me said, “Ho, hum.” All the presents were-- well, when it came right down to it, they were just more stuff. And Christmas was a fun day, but still it was just another day. The rest of me convinced myself to be happy with my gifts and grateful to be with my family; but there was this disappointment. Why did I have to grow up and lose the magic and wonder?

I shared earlier, on my birthday post, how I became a Christian at the age of 15. One of the most amazing things about that was how the next year at Christmas, the magic was back. And the wonder was stronger than ever. It’s hard to put into words what Christmas has been for me since, and is for me now.

When the lights go out, and the tree is twinkling in the dark-- or when I go outside and stare up at the frosty stars in the chilly night sky-- I think about the light of the world coming to the world, shining in the darkness, and the darkness not overcoming it. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.” That son was the Word, who was with God and who was God, and who was in the beginning with God. How could the Source and Foundation of all being become one of us? How could the bright center of the universe live and walk and breathe and die here with us? It’s astonishing, really, in ways I can hardly express.

But I like to think that for one instant that night, the world was silent in breathless amazement-- and then a baby's cry rang out over the roofs of Bethlehem.

Christmas has a weight and depth in my mind and heart that it didn’t have even when I was a child-- for the story of the baby Jesus was to me then just a pretty tale and a lovely song my mother sang to me. Now it’s more than magic-- it’s a miracle, and it is recreated every year by the sparkle of lights, the smell of pine, the taste of cookies, and the anticipatory gleam of those shiny packages that I know will make me happy watching my loved ones opening them-- and my loved ones happy watching me.

This is my last post till after the big day. I’ve got lots and lots still to do. But I hope that however you celebrate Christmas, and even if you don’t celebrate it at all, you will feel a little bit of “peace on earth, good will towards men” as the season turns from darkness back to light.

Merry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays. Greetings of the Season. Whatever it is for you, be blessed this holy week.