Because I’m supposed to be grading papers, I’m finding all sorts of ways to avoid doing it. Thankfully, I have a hair appointment in just a little while, so why even try to get into the grading groove? (My husband tells me I need ‘time management’ help. Yes. Yes, I do.)
Because it’s December, I am legitimately listening to one of of my several ‘holiday’ Pandora stations. Thankfully, not every song brings me to tears, because honestly, it’s a bit of a struggle to see the computer screen through the waterfall, and I only have a few minutes here. (I keep telling my students that ‘once and done’ writing is never the BEST writing. Do as I say, not as I do, right?)
Because it’s Christmas time, I am growing nostalgic. Remembering childhood Christmases in the North Dakota winter, snowy Christmas Eves, warm kitchens, Dad’s contented grin, Mom’s busy hands, my delight in anticipation. (My heart tells me there’s a lesson lurking. Oh! Let this be a teaching moment.)
Certain songs of the ‘Season’ — Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime Is Here” and “Linus & Lucy,” Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” nearly any version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and lately, because in spite of myself I’m from Indiana now, Straight No Chaser’s “Indiana Christmas” — reliably put me in the ‘holiday spirit,’ but with baking and buying and decorating and rushing about to ‘make merry at Christmas,’ I can too easily forget to ‘honor Christmas in my heart, and keep it all the year.’ (I do love a good Dickens reference, don’t you?)
Songs on the radio have an odd way of fading in and out of my conscious awareness. If I’m trying to read something significant, I’ll usually mute the sound for a bit. If I’m looking for a recipe, I’ll likely sing along. If Christmas music is playing, I’ll provide the words even when a jazz trio is playing. And so it happened that the familiar strains of “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” came into the foreground of my thoughts. “Through the years, we all will be together, if the Fates allow” has long been the line of this particular Christmas song that makes me weepy. Growing up, my older siblings didn’t always make it ‘home for Christmas,’ and as a grown-up myself I often missed the North Dakota version, spending the Holy day in Tennessee, or Alabama or better still, ‘in Indiana, where Christmas will always be real.’ In one place or another, family and friends, together at Christmas. I have a treasured Christmas gift from the kids to whom I am 2nd Mom. It’s an oversized platter, just the right size for cookies for the whole neighborhood. On it are the words, “through the years, we all will be together” — of course I cried when I opened it, thinking ahead to the years when we might not be, and thinking back on the wonderful years our families have shared.
Wonderful years indeed. Around here, a blanket of snow has fallen. Our home is warm. Our children are well. We have jobs. We have insurance. We have health, and wealth and friends and a future.
But just across town a young father was killed in a robbery while trying to buy a gift for his parents. Across the world a small country threatens with a very big stick as it continues to enrich uranium, and an American school teacher was killed in Benghazi. While human rights violations rage across China, ‘selfies’ saturate our social media sites and not even one day after Americans gave thanks for all that they have, violence and riotous behavior broke out in the shopping ritual known as ‘Black Friday.’ What is wrong with us???
At Christmas-time, echoes of ‘peace on Earth, good will toward men’ still resound. As Scrooge’s nephew Fred puts it, ‘But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” ‘
‘Apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that…’
The Christmas story. The story that all the other stories, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Family Man” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Elf,” “A Christmas Story” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” hint at. Linus knew it. Do you?
As the last notes of “Have Yourself a Merry Little…” transitioned to the next offering in the playlist, my mind’s ears got caught on a snag in the song’s lyrics — ‘until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.’ And that’s what we’re doing. ‘Muddling through.’ Getting it wrong. Power-mongering. Consumerism. ‘me, me, me.’ Family discord. Nations at war. Fear. Worry. All the year long. And then comes Christmas, just like it does every year, reminding us of something more real than these ‘shadowlands’ of doubt. In the dark of a Christmas night, God came down and ‘made His dwelling among us,’ that we might be redeemed. He gave us Himself. In “The Weight of Glory,” CS Lewis points out that, as we ‘muddle through,’ ‘He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that He will accept a deliberate compromise. For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself; and He can give that only in so far as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls.’
Make room for Him this Season. Open your ‘shut-up heart freely’ and let the Christ (and the Season) do you Good.
Christmas. The coming of the Savior. A star in the East. “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow.”