We are not decorating our Christmas tree this year, except for an Angel on top and lights. Home only for the holidays, we are keeping our schedule simple. In fact, the gifts we will bring the children when we depart as Snowbirds to Florida, have been purchased and wrapped, the short To-Do lists are checked off, and there are no cookies to bake.
As with Jacob in the promised land of his descendants, I believe God has brought me, kicking and screaming, to this new place where I have time to look and listen to the Now of the approaching Manger. Unbalanced by the quiet and unhurried by a checked off list, I am grounded in the basics of Advent – the Messiah is coming – He is with us – God keeps His Promises.
In this quiet slow I am thinking in complete sentences, keeping up with the laundry, feeding the birds, painting with a friend, and noticing things I haven’t stopped to look at or consider in Christmases past. These incidents seemed at first to be small and insignificant, yet they all point, as did my years of preparation for family gatherings, to a greater story – The Birth of Baby Jesus and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
I’ve noticed the way merchandisers are gradually upping their bounty with decorated shelving stuffed with holiday treats and trinkets which, with the added season’s music, are irresistible even if you are only shopping for milk.
Dreamy spicy-green fragrances wafting from flickering candles and hidden vents in the stores, messing with any practical thoughts in my head.
Thin veined leaves, some brown and wasted and others still gold and luminous, fluttering and floating, to the chilled ground, their season now ended.
Trees with branches bare standing stoic and sullen like sentries waiting for winter’s onslaught.
The variety of outside decorations in the neighborhoods, from bloated Mickey and Frosty in cartoon garb to tasteful wreaths and dimmed window candles, hinting at the home life within.
The inevitable question tugging at my heart when I pass by a house that is dark and bare.
The brave birds chirping urgent melodies as they seek bits of left over seed and shelter in deserted birdhouses or fluffy gilded wreaths hung in doorways.
A pervading cheerfulness and expectant twinkle in the eyes among most folks, and how the grumpy people just don’t fit.
Memories that are welcome to linger long and deep, to be played over and over.
Christmas trees not adorned shine bright with a vivid peace.
Friends’ hugs are warm and genuine, extended with an appreciation of being alive and together again.
The desire that won’t go away to bake cookies and cakes, filling the kitchen with the fragrance of “Come Home!”
A fresh and unmistakable clarity to the Christmas Story, and an unhindered ability to bring its Light and Love to this bulging bobbling world in which we live.
And, a heightened sense of heart steps approaching, beat by beat, toward the Manger.
Much as Joseph’s brothers felt after their father’s death and they feared the worst from their brother, I too had dreaded what this new life would look like. I see now that though I meant it to be bad, “God meant it to be good.”