There are many things that signal Christmas for people. Maybe it's the carols echoing throughout the landscape? Maybe you know it's Christmas because it snows? (Less and less places for that these days.). Maybe it's nothing more than turning over the calendar to December? Maybe it's the Christmas displays in July at Target? For me, it's the Christmas tree.
To me, the Christmas tree really tells me the Christmas season is upon me.
We set up our Christmas tree on the Thursday after Thanksgiving. It always stays up until the weekend after Epiphany. That usually gives me a good six weeks to stare and meditate with my Christmas tree. I look for the generalness of the tree, I don't really focus on ornaments or lights, but rather just take in the whole tree, and let it sort of settle in next to me.
In the early morning, long before anyone else even thinks about getting up, I take a cup of coffee, wander over to my chair, and just pray. I pray for people. I pray for events. I pray for good weather. Anything that comes my way. It's the best six weeks of the year.
So what gets you in the Christmas spirit? How do you know it's Christmas?
I think of that first Christmas, and how it just sort of happened. (In fact, in all probability, the story we have is a dramatic re-creation of the original event.) I mean, stuff that makes Christmas "Christmas" for people like presents, angels, music, shepherds, or a manger where just part of a birth, not a religious holiday celebration. Maybe Christmas just sneaks up on you like that?
Maybe nothing really speaks Christmas to you these days? A spouse has died. Children have left home. Parents are no longer able to create "Santa," and now the holiday is a hollow shell of happier days? Christmas is much more lonely than it used to be.
I think those lonely Christmases, although no one wants to be part of them, were much like the original Christmas. How lonely for Mary and Joseph? How lonely for the shepherds that they actually went looking for a baby in a manger, "just to see?" So, if you're lonely this Christmas please know that you have plenty of company. A lot of us are lonely on this day, in this season.
I do hope you all find some kind of Christmas love this season. I hope something brings a smile to your face. I hope someone has joined you in peace for the world? That is the point of the original Christmas, and all those up to today: that you are not alone, God is here. Right in the world. Right in the flesh to be with you all your days of life, and whatever comes after death. You are loved.
May your tables be full and your conversations be true.