Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Blue Christmas...Before Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning to find the light dusting in the field that I had wanted so badly a month ago. It's perfect for today, two funerals and two grieving families in ten days. We'll celebrate two baptisms in Advent, so hope looms on the horizon as it creates an irenic scene in my backyard that Thomas Kincaide couldn't match on his best day.

I've never felt the holiday crunch the way I do this year. We'd ventured to the mall the other week and I couldn't bring myself to take more than three steps into a women's clothing shop my wife was sure would contain a gift for a relative. I stood by the entrance sipping my caramel coffee, noting a few ladies' vibes of discomfort with my standing near a rack they'd meant to explore. No problem. I'll move sideways (not forward) to another rack. There you go. Make someone's spirits bright.

Have you seen that JC Penney commercial where the disembodied voice promises that your family's Christmas will be 'made magical' after you buy them stuff? Seriously. That's what they say. Is it possible to have Seasonal Affective Tourette's? Does that happen? I'll ask my psychology major wife later.

We of course live among smaller towns in our piece of Ohio, and a lot of them host nights where you can wander downtown while they pass out hot chocolate, leave their little shops open late, you can hear caroling and even join in. It can get really cold, but you can also run into old friends from high school, close your eyes as Little Julie sings the second verse of O Holy Night on her own (and boy do you hope she'll major in voice when she graduates in 2012), you're far away from constipated parking lots and manufactured cheer.

We're hosting a Blue Christmas service this year. It's the first time many have heard of such a concept. It's the first time I've led one. I can appreciate its need now. I grow increasingly tired of 'merchandise makes magic' advertising and yearn for more homegrown 'hey neighbor how are ya?' spirit that Jesus truly advocated. If you're unfamiliar with Blue Christmas, here's the abbreviated vernacular: the holidays suck for a lot of people because they're lonely, depressed, mourning a loved one, or stressed out. Blue Christmas is to provide reassurance and comfort. I ask myself how someone who feels more befuddled than ever by the world's version of Christmas could be in a position to lead this service, and then some voice to which I don't pay attention often enough says, 'Well, it's for you, too. They're not messed up. You all are.'

So I look back out to my field and look at the pure untouched layer of snow covering it. If only it could always be like that. If only Christmas could be as pure. If only I could be.

I can't wait to hear Little Julie sing. She's the only one keeping me sane.

God works through everyone.