Christmas Now…

My perspective on Christmas is bordering on heresy.

Our priest this year told us about the silence he remembered after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

The complete quiet in the car while driving home as he and his sister basked in the remembered service.

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‘Silence,’ I thought, ‘I could do with a little bit of that to still my beating heart.’

I wanted that feeling of quietness as I sat in my pew with thoughts clamoring to be unwrapped and examined like the gifts around my living room,

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Instead I let myself be lulled by the familiarity of the music, the hypnotic flickering of candles during Silent Night, the smells of incense and perfume, the sounds of bells, the vestment colors, the red poinsettias, the comforting predictability of liturgy, the pomp and ceremony,

And that open mouthed awe that belies all understanding.

During the rush of Christmas preparation I find myself identifying with the 16th century churchmen who complained that feasting and giving gifts in December was a pagan ritual;

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The bible does not mention December 25th nor command us to celebrate Christmas.

So why do we?

And what has happened to the sacred meaning of this welcome coming?

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Why is this one day so special for those who do not believe that a child was born to save us?

Why, when my brother and I finally spoke, was he most apologetic for not actually managing to speak to me on 25th?

“That doesn’t bother me,” I said brushing off his comment, “what I wonder about is why we don’t talk any other time of the year and feel we have to talk today?”

Why, one day a year do we run up debt, wrack our brains for the perfect gift,

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look on-line for ideas, clean the house, put up decorations, cook for days, shop for weeks and fret endlessly as we close in on the fateful day?

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Without young children at my feet I’d be happy to go to church and have a quiet day floating on a lake, doing nothing.

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No worries that Aunt Mabel will make a fool of herself or Uncle Albert will drink too much or the children will get nipped by the dog and disappointed by their presents.

I’d rather check out and be somewhere else.  Skip all the bruha,

join Scrooge on a beach somewhere…

or Christ in His stable.

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For our Boxing Day party we took our half-heartedly decorated trees down, already tired of the pretense after only a week.

The gifts had been opened,

the mantle was bare,

jams, shortbreads and good chocolate bark had been gifted,

all was quiet;

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The frenzy of the season had finally blown away.

With a backdrop of rain we enjoyed neighborly conversation,

catching up with friends,

filling our bellies with chicken enchilada and a layered trifle.

Big band music floated in the air,

I relaxed into my chair and looked around.

Silence had stilled my beating heart at long last and come to rest on my hearth.

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