It was beautiful. More than I expected. It was rich. Joyful. Beautiful. Abundant. Merry. Really it was almost Dickens-esque. And it wasn’t of course just the presents brought by Santa Claus. But that was a good part. That was good. Our family’s peace and harmony and love. Our remembrance of Jesus and of his nativity. His coming to us to be one of us. His becoming flesh and being born into the world. It struck me so richly this year that it is an occasion for feasting. It’s the time to go all out. To go over the top. To be lavish, to enjoy and to praise God abundantly and to enjoy fully. This cannot be done by those who imbibe all year round. Who know not the feeling of holding back. Of self-denial and of having to say no a lot to the children. Of teaching self-control and learning it. Of watching and nurturing and caring for carefully those sweet young tender souls. When we celebrate after the hard work of the year,it is truly celebrating. When we think back on all the hardships we’ve come through, all the battles we fought and won by God’s grace, and when we think of how we barely scraped by, then we can be truly grateful and we have something to tremble before the glory of. To think that God himself entered the fray and became one of us. As a newborn infant. The moment of birth is itself a victory, a relief, and an abounding joy that lasts forever. One can only imagine Mary’s joy at that moment. It’s a wonder it didn’t knock her out! But peace must have flooded in, because there at that moment, the Word came into the room, which is Love and the Way the Truth and the Life. The Light of the World came into the room.
And this is how we celebrate. We give gifts from our hearts, we provide and enjoy wonderful foods, we meet with friends, we send them pictures and cards and letters telling about our lives. We stop. We stop our business and everything that we pretend matters so much and the world becomes slow and bathed in golden silvery light as everyone rests and gives and feels full of joy and of peace. Neighbors take the time to greet one another and bring gifts, and everything turns magical for children. It’s a time for children because Christ became one of them. And we are all to become like children that we may inherit the kingdom of heaven. We can too. We can stop and slow down and stoop and see the world through their eyes. We can be right here in the present moment, drinking it all in with our eyes and our ears wide open to creation expecting the amazing, and still believing. I do still believe in Santa Claus. Of course I know he’s St. Nicholas, but I believe for some reason. I still like to listen for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve, even though I am now Mrs. Claus. It’s the most fun in the world. It’s so much fun to believe.
Next year, I won’t hold back at all. this year I worked through whatever may have remained of my puritanical scrooginess. I worry about materialism every year, until this year, I think I finally get it. There’s a time to be wide open and to give generously from the bottom of your heart without holding back. There can never be too much beauty, too much love, too much generosity, to much joy, too much peace, or too much of those things shared by a family. Only then can they overflow.
Next year, I will decorate starting right at the beginning of Advent again. I will light the Advent wreath each night, and tell the Jesse Tree stories as we count down and prepare. I will give gifts to friends and neighbors, and send out a photo card with a letter before Christmas. I will take my daughter to see the Nutcracker and maybe the whole family. I will invite friends to celebrate, and I will accept invitations. I will make things magical for the kids, and not hold back. I will carve out special times for me and my husband to share together just the two of us. And next year, we will be taking vitamin C in abundance so that we won’t miss family gatherings or mass! And we will go to the candlelight concert at the Cathedral. We will place a nativity scene in our yard and decorate with angels. We will bake gingery and pepperminty things and make iced sugar cookies. We will light fragranced candles and play beautiful music. And most of all we we spend time together exalting in the joy of God’s gifts to us in the form of each other, His creation, and His coming to us in His Son Jesus.We will pay attention to each other and slow down for that whole season. It’s such a beautiful time of year. Maybe it’s the most beautiful.
This year was also marked with bittersweetness. My thoughts and prayers have been elsewhere. Three families whom we know were struck by tragedy this year. Two were dealt a blow from which they will never fully recover. I recieved a letter from one which nearly took my breath away. Because of her sorrow, she nearly flew off the face of the earth, but grabbed hold of a treetop. Now her gratefulness for everything has grown to bursting, even though the sorrow may never go away. In my heart, I kneel at the very thought of the breathtaking tragedy which she’s undergone. And through it, I too have become more grateful, less hurried, and more careful. Less perfectionist, and more humbled. My eyes are open. My ears are open. My hands are willing to do the work set before them. All things are a grace from God.