I read somewhere that Christmas isn't mandated by the Church as a high holiday. It's truly not a solemn occasion. If you think about that which might be a co-opted pagan celebration, this one has probably been the one that most often does not use Christian symbols. Happy Birthday Jesus doesn't quite fit so much as Happy Birthday Baby Jesus. And so the word Joy best describes what this time of year is all about. Joy to the World.
It's not actually even a message we Christians are likely to be known for. There's always an evangelical hook in there somewhere - or for me in my blend, a Jesuit mind trick. Proper Christianity challenges your mind and soul, but in late December the challenges are more about getting a parking space and all other sorts of preparation for joyous celebration. This year we got duck.
Right now, everything is as perfect as it gets. All the family phone calls have been made and all the news is good. People are healthy and in good spirits. Them that had no jobs, now got jobs. Some travelling has been done and old faces have been seen, warm embraces had in defiance of winter and quiet talk over hot drinks have given us another chance to pause, smiling and look down at the table for that moment when we say to ourselves nodding, "that's really good". The confessions are done as well. People like to come clean around this time of year. According to the guy on the radio, almost nobody breaks up on Christmas Day, but starting at Black Friday if your affair is in jeopardy, be prepared to handle the truth. The truth is that we know and we admit it finally, that human beings can be awesome, and sometimes we have to just let go of our fears and tell the honest truth. We play that game when the family is in a good mood and as parents we promise to forgive confessions of mischief - we call it BOL, for blurt out loud. Blurt. That's a good and giggly word. You just can't wait to talk about everything so that you can tell your good news, and feel good and prepare for the joy.
There's a kind of inevitability about Christmas joy. This year it was a long time coming. As it turns out, I'm between jobs and have had lots of time to think about other things, a good seven week sabbatical it turns out. Christmas couldn't sneak up on me this time; it felt like it took forever to get here. I started singing carols in public last week, and although I didn't burn a CD for the car, I did have it on the home system. The first thing I did yesterday morning was I listened to several renditions of O Holy Night. Whitney Houston, Celtic Woman, Celine Dion, Susan Boyle, Charlotte Church, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, NSync, Alicia Keyes, another Mariah Carey version. Right there in bed on my iPhone via YouTube. No matter how many times I listened to it, I still love the song. I still don't know all the words, but man when they get to the 'fall on your knees' part, it just melts me when they do it right. And yeah I have to say, Mariah does it best. You know the words are coming, and it still gets you in the gut. Advent. What a wonderful word.
We're at that family age with three teenagers. They know what they want, we know what to get them. It's wonderful watching all the bubbly subterfuge as we raid the bag of ribbons and wrapping paper. Everybody snatchs the roll of scotch tape from my desk and scampers off to their rooms to wrap another gift. We color code the sticky bows, if it's red it's mine. It seemed to take almost no time at all to get the tree and decorate it and now it's surrounded. There have been sleepovers and videogame parties. We baked cookies and made many runs to the stores.
.and that's all I'm writing this morning...
Merry Christmas, and may your thoughts be more coherent and complete than mine. Pass the eggnog.