Rest, Smile, Lights
For several years now, my relationship with this season has been changing.
Last year I was especially curious why a vision of sitting in a pub a few days after Christmas, the decorations showing a bit of a lilt, seemed so enticing. That vision has been around for a bit longer, but I finally figured out why.
This year I'm apparently paying more attention to small displays of lights than to big majestic ones. I think I've always been more Charlie Brown than Clark Griswold that way, but I'm still striving to understand this particular fascination.
It's been quite a long time since I anticipated Christmas as being a magical winter wonderland where angels are always singing and everything is mint-flavored awesome. Many people I know operate with this view: this time brings them endless joy, and far be it for me to deny it to them or shame them for it. But for some reason, I don't experience that anticipation myself.
I certainly have my moments. I love the way my kids' eyes widen as they look at the decorations and listen to the story of the Polar Express. I still laugh at Clark's attempts to have the perfect holiday with his family, recite every line along with Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and become misty-eyed when Linus stands onstage to recite the passage from Luke. I look forward to carols on Christmas Eve and cinnamon rolls the next day. I savor the mornings before dawn when no one else is yet awake and I can drink my coffee by the light of the tree. There is plenty that I treasure about this time of year.
But mixed up in the magic is the mess. There's the memory of people who won't be joining us this year. There's the busyness of preparation that I inevitably get caught up in. There's the consumeristic barrage that makes me tired and the artificial cheer that companies constantly try to force upon us.
And so I visualize that pub or I see that little strand of lights, and I think that there's something more real about that than the other stuff. There's something more true to the human experience where joy is truly able to break through despair rather than be slathered over top of it.
For some, December is one long continuous moment of wonder and glad tidings. Again, I don't deny them that and am happy that they can approach it that way. My own moments with family or favorite movies and songs come and go, and speak into a place of longing.
But I guess that's really what this time leading up to Christmas is about. We are searching and longing and waiting for something. When we finally find it, it's best to hold on. Because those other moments happen, too.