(Written on Sunday, Jan. 13th). This is the first year I can ever remember still enjoying the lights, the tree , and the Christmas music so late in the season. Normally I am sick of pine needles on the floor, wandering ornaments and the clutter of decor by this point and relish restoring order. I told myself I was going to bring down the tree today as it is usually the day we do it. After all, it is the last day of Christmas in the church calendar.
I suppose I should be thankful that the old calendar had the wisdom to stretch it out to Candlemas, in February, because this year I find myself still full of Christmas. It is still with me with its quiet joy. Looking at our tree and manger, I still feel it’s presence in the house. I do not want to hasten its leaving. I find myself thinking , “Why lengthen that stretch of winter between the taking down of the tree and the first crocus showing its head?”
Christmas is a funny thing, you cannot force it. You cannot look for it. It comes when it wants to and stays where it will. It is after all, a birth, something for the most part outside of our control.
Of course we are told not told that. Our culture has us convinced that we make it happen. But perhaps that is also the reason there is the rush to to bring down the ornaments right after the opening of gifts. We feel cheated, because we know we did not really make Christmas come. And we are only too glad to see Christmas go. It is the con man who has left us with an empty wallet and a false promises.
But, if Christmas is not a conman but a birth, then we are freed. We don’t have to be responsible for it. If Christmas is a birth all we can do is try to be ready. But birth is messy, unexpected, and it is different every time. And it is certainly not something we have any control over, as much as we would like to convince ourselves otherwise. “If only thus and such would happen, or so and so were here, or we bought thus and such, then it would be the ‘perfect Christmas’.”
We tell ourselves this every year and it is a lie. The perfect Christmas, like the perfect birth can only be seen in retrospect, but I think one factor in it is the letting go. Any midwife will tell you that a woman must be relaxed and not stressed out if she is to give birth. And what is more stressful that the feeling that something is expected of us and we might not measure up?
Christmas, like birth, cannot be planned or controlled and it can only happen if we step back and let it. To put conditions on Christmas is the opposite of Christmas. (After all, we put no conditions on a sunset, or a snowfall.).
So this year, certainly through no virtue of my own, Christmas has decided to stay with us longer. I am still feeling it daily in the true gifts to brought me. The gift of learning to cut an onion better (my father ). And in the beef in our freezer that is feeding and nourishing these growing girls daily that my father in law traveled like a wise man to bring us. It is the tiny tree that an old man in an overgrown Virginia farmhouse gave me for half price because he was kind. In the boxwood wreath that my neighbor invited me up to gather. And of course the greatest gift of all, that tiny silver baby Jesus that Ronia is still carrying all over the house and I find greeting me in the funniest places. None of these happened because of me. They were all Christmas, coming on its own terms.
And I cannot pack it her all up onto a plastic tub and shove her into a dark closet, not yet.