It has been such a beautiful Adventide, bright with times to keep. Like sitting by the fire with a little clutch of beloved friends all in formal evening dress, sipping eggnog and discussing the Incarnation. Like watching the late afternoon sun warm the walls of the Cathedral downtown while the old, old Story was told again in Lessons and Carols. Like the sudden catch in my throat at the words of O Holy Night in French.
My only complaint, as always, is that it’s going by too fast. I make such a desperate effort to cling to the golden hours even as they fly, and for me that means several concrete things: savoring each loved yearly task and making the effort in the act to be aware of why I’m doing it; as many quiet evenings by the fire together as possible, reading aloud or listening to favorite Christmas records; scribbling like mad in my journal, snatching at precious things with words woefully inadequate for such glory but which, I hope, will evoke the magic of this particular season in later years. It’s always so interesting for me to consider that so much that I love about Christmas is the same from year to year, reborn in the bright beauty of this shining today, so old and so ever-new. Things may be far from perfect in our January-to-November lives; the coming of another New Year may only serve to sharpen the sting of unmet desire and yet-to-be-fulfilled longings. And yet, Christmas comes in with a flourish, holly-crowned and ivy-dressed, glittering with diamond frosts to rival the brightness of any store bought baubles, insistent in its message of Joy despite our human efforts to reduce it to a meaningless round of going and doing and spending.
It’s that indomitable Yes of Christmas that makes me love it more than any other season of the year. With the birth of Christ, God literally astounded the human race with His love. A Light that can never be extinguished penetrated our darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Dayspring has visited us, and left His everlasting mark on our world. As far as I’m concerned, that is something to celebrate with all of my heart and most of my strength (hence the shocking shortage of posts around here—I’m sorry, friends). I heard a fantastic sermon early on in the season about John the Baptist and how the whole mission of his life was simply to point to Jesus. That concept captured my heart, and it really has been my desire and prayer that all this love I’m lavishing on my dear ones might simply serve as a finger pointing to the honored Host ‘of all this reveling.’ A lofty goal, no doubt, and one I have to keep bringing myself back to. But His grace is so good. And His beauty gilds the most ordinary things.
And so I have been baking and cooking and polishing and trimming like mad. Armloads of holly have been carted inside and dragged through the rooms on a sheet to adorn the tops of pictures, and tiny boxwood rings crown my hurricanes and votives. My freezer is stuffed with enough casseroles and cookies and treats to feed two small armies (one on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day) and I’ve ironed about a thousand damask napkins. Even as I write, I have one eye on a pot of fragrant, simmering gingerbread caramels, and another on cinnamon rolls rising on the counter. There is still so much to do: a last minute freshening of greenery, fashioning the cedar wreaths for the barn animals’ Christmas treat, making the plum pudding, wrapping gifts (I haven’t wrapped the first one!)…
But for tonight, I’m going to cease the glad doing and just sit and stare at my tree with a wonder undiminished by the years. Maybe spin a crackly old Robert Shaw album on the turntable. And just keep Christmas.
I wish you all the very Merriest of Christmases, and as a little gift, I’d like to share this carol that I recorded with my friend Rachel. Our original inspiration was the lovely, almost breathlessly-quiet John Rutter rendition, but our accompanist (who also happened to be her brother) insisted on spicing things up a bit. The funny thing is that we two rather stodgy Christmas-music-traditionalists liked it better his way, when it was all said and done. I confess, I halted over sharing it, because I am flat on the first note (!). But it’s such a dear song. And, this of all times of the year, it’s not about Perfect.
It’s about Love.