The other day I heard the old refrain, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go….” My initial thought was, No, it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s sixty degrees and I’m sitting outside with no coat on!!!
Christmas was always my parents’ house. Piles of snow until there was nowhere to put them and my Mom pulling us around the block on a sled. You could hear the crunch of the snow and smell the beautiful Yule logs burning in the chimneys. Sparkle-lit trees in every window. Shovels leaned up against every house.
Christmas was my Mom in her flour-covered, poinsettia apron. The swirling smells of a natural tree and my Mom’s reindeer cookies fresh out of the oven. The hundred-year-old ornaments she gently placed near the top where the star never seemed to sit just right. The old phonograph that glowed and hummed and got too hot when she kept playing, The Little Drummer Boy. Mistletoe hung and stockings hung, too. School project Santas stuck to the fridge. Hundreds of Christmas cards she’d send with a pack of poinsettia seeds in them.
Christmas was the same lights each neighbor put up every year. All around us, those huge, multi-colored ones. Ours were always tiny and blue. The delicious smells of leather and furs and perfume as my dolled-up relatives came jollying in from the cold to sit around our tiny kitchen, fogging up the windows and ringing it to life. My Dad would always let us use the nutcracker and he would do a little dance when Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree came on. Always racing in late for church. Stopping by friends’ and neighbors’, loud with the very goodness of together again.
Like a lot of you now, the parents’ house is gone. The parents gone, too. The old church is a rec center. The old neighbors have gone from the old neighborhood. Most of the relatives have had to go, too. I can’t seem to find that box of ornaments and I never learned to make those reindeer cookies of hers.
It’s sixty degrees here in Michigan and not even close to a white Christmas promised. The condo complex by-laws don’t allow us to put up lights outside, not even tiny blue ones. I pulled my tabletop tree out of the closet and plugged it in.
But in quiet moments when Faith remembers, Christmas comes again. I’ve realized that the true gift of Christmas is offered to all of us. Every year, shining bright as that star long-ago followed. Just in simple promise. Just in sweet hope.
It is under every tree each time this year, tabletop and plastic and all the rest.
The gift is to realize that Christmas is not a statue. It isn’t some cold, immovable stone. Christmas isn’t meant to lay wreaths at the feet of what was once, marking only what is missing and only what was better.
Christmas doesn’t stay in one place. In some far off place. Beyond our reach. In a past we no longer have access to. With people we’ve lost. With people we miss.
Christmas is alive. It is warm and well. It is moving and able. It springs to life and crackles, casting firelights into the blue-cold night. Restoring and healing, Christmas reminds us the very fortunes of our souls.
We get to take Christmas with us. We get to take Christmas wherever we go, wherever we land, wherever we choose to invite it.
And, thank God, it’s ours again this year.
Christmas is as much for the present and the future as it is for a treasured past. Why else would we get a new year to anticipate? And thank God, we have that, too.
The other day I got up and danced in my pajamas to, We Need A Little Christmas. I find that I don’t care to drive by our old house. I’m excited, instead, to go see my brothers’ new places. There are kids to buy for and people to call. Carols to sing and presents to wrap. Gorgeous cookies at every stop. Plans to see and enjoy those who make every year a dear one. Every returned embrace, a gift.
As I pulled in last night, The Little Drummer Boy came on and I sat watching the warm, Southern breeze twist and tickle the beautiful huge ornaments hanging from the trees near my condo. The moonlight made them flash and smile and I sang that song for my Mom. Laughing and crying in the carport.
I thought to myself then that, when so much seems to have left, Christmas hasn’t. Christmas has arrived. Christmas and all who defined it, fashioned it and scored it in the soundtrack of our lives.
And I remembered that Jesus never left, either. Even when it appeared so. He’s still here.
It’s His day, anyway. When we start every morning with that, there’s nothing left but joy. Joy.
Joyful Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful New Year to you and to those you love.