All Anticipation

". . . for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself." ~Charles Dickens

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.

"Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart." ~ Washington Irving

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!)…

"Christmas is the day that holds all time together." ~Alexander Smith

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.

I Saw a Maiden

11 Responses to “All Anticipation”

  1. Olivia says:

    Thank you Lanier, for pointing, as always, to the true importance in this all-too-busy season. I lament the rush that has kept me from appreciating this Advent as I would wish to, but your post is a wonderful way to be reminded. How glorious is the news of His incarnation and birth; such a breath-taking joy to contemplate! I cherish your blog for these glimpses of beauty and art among busy days. A very Happy Christmas to you

  2. Sheena says:

    Dear Lanier, thank you for your beautiful pictures and account of your activities. I run right out of energy at this time of year and have to push through a heavy fatigue barrier, so it is heartening to be reminding that all the preparation is loving and lovely. I also enjoyed your carol, you both have lovely voices! I know a different tune for that one, it is always nice to hear and relish different settings and see how they put different emphases/meanings on the words. By the way, our Lessons and Carols service went very well – the expected storm broke early in the afternoon, so we had lovely breezes and clear skies. This is the church our choir sang in: http://www.saintmarys.org.au/ . Merry Christmas!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Sheena, I was listening to Britten’s Ceremony of Carols yesterday and it made me think of you. :) Merry Christmas!

  3. Maria says:

    Lanier, many blessings for a wonderful Christmastide. And thank you for the spicy whiff of gingerbread.

  4. Candy says:

    Dear kindred spirit,

    Thanks so much for always pointing so gracefully, so sweetly, so clearly to our dear Lord! Thanks for the whiff of heaven itself. I can imagine joyful angels making similar preparations, humming halleluias under their breath.

  5. […] I sit down on the couch, I put up my feet, and I visit two of my favorite blogs, hoping to catch some of the excitement of my Christmas fairy friend, praying to remember the wisdom of my fellow farmer’s […]

  6. Janice says:

    A very blessed and grace-filled Christmas and New Year to all here and yours.

  7. Josh says:

    Merry Christmas, Lanier!

    A friend shared this poem with me this morning, and I thought you might enjoy it, too:

    Moonless darkness stands between.
    Past, the Past, no more be seen! 
    But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
    To the sight of Him Who freed me
    From the self that I have been.
    Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy; 
    Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly; 
    Now beginning, and alway: 
    Now begin, on Christmas day. 

    -Gerard Manley Hopkins 

    :-)

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Thank you so much, Josh. Hopkins is one of my all-time favorite poets, but I had never heard of this one. I read it to Philip on Christmas Day and we both loved it. Merry Christmas!

  8. Hello, Lanier! I am overjoyed you have a blog! And I found it! :) Several years ago, a sweet friend gave me the Southern Living Christmas book with your lovely piece in it. Ever since then, I have loved perusing the pages that describe how you decorate your home – or at least how you did then – for Christmas. Aaaand I’ve even copied some of your ideas for myself!

    So, I give you a belated thank you for always bringing joy to my Christmas! Much love to you and yours, Lanier!

    Love,

    Kristen

    PS Oh, and I see you know Gretchen and Ashleigh! I met Gretchen only this year at a blogging conference in October, but I’ve known Ashleigh for a little while longer {I’m a military wife, too}. Small world! Both girls are just darling.

    PPSS And the fact that you are a Sister in Christ? Well, that’s just the cherry on top! :)

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Kristen, what a delightful coincidence! :) I am so happy that you made the connection and that you took the time to say Hello! It is a small world–or, as my mother likes to say, a small Kingdom. :)

      God bless you, and thanks for introducing yourself!

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