I love Christmas. It truly is my favorite time of the year. I savor it all- the lights, the music, the candles, the smells, the cheer- it is just the best. I can jazz out to Bing Crosby with the best of them, running about the house, strewing tinsel everywhere as I sing “Silver Bells” like a deranged Christmas fairy who just took a hit of peppermint mocha cocaine.
But this year, not so much.
There are probably several reasons for this:
I just moved a few months ago and am missing some of those things I left behind in North Carolina (but not the 20 foot tall inflatable snowman at that tree lot on Falls of Neuse. I swear that thing will kill us all. It’s only a matter of time.), and Dallas has been celebrating Christmas since Labor Day (at least that’s how long the Little Debbie stands have been out in Tom Thumb).
Layered on top of that is a very complicated relationship between the Protestant/Evangelical Church and the Christmas season. We get so busy be-dazzling our spaces and our calendars that some of the glitter and gloss ends up coating the Incarnate Logos with something that feels a bit gross. The cheer and the merriment just feel tiresome some days, and I feel immensely guilty for it.
But when I step back and sit for a little while and think past the lights, and the interminable Mariah Carey song that was playing on loop at the grocery store (see, this has gotten bad), when I set those things aside and really think about what Christmas is about, what Advent is about, the vision field clears a bit and what I am left with is a mystery.
God came down. God didn’t have to, so why? Aside from the important answers of “saving humanity from their manifold sins and wickedness,” why? Was God curious? Did God want to get a taste of why human beings have such a hard time keeping their @#$% together? Was it out of empathy? Mercy? Love?
I think of Mary. While everyone celebrated, while the little fat cherubs tooted their horns in the heavens and the shepherds went running to share the news of what they had seen, Mary pondered. Mary held the cards close to her heart. Mary sat with it. Does this mean I get to sit with it too and maybe not feel so darn guilty? I will take that as a yes.
If, like me, you are wrestling with the season for whatever reason, what are the things that are pulling you through?
For me, music and poetry are good first options. So today, I share one of my favorite Advent carols: “Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree” set by Elizabeth Poston.
“This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
it keeps my dying faith alive,
which makes my soul in haste to be
with Jesus Christ, the apple tree.”