Yes, I am on the couch trying desperately not to come down with a full-blown cold. Yes, I could be addressing Christmas/Holiday cards. You’ll get yours. Keep your shirt on. Right now, I have wreaths and a garland on the outside of my front doors. That’s it by way of Christmas decor, so far. Oh, wait. I am drinking my coffee these days out of Christmas mugs, so I’ve got that going for me.
Now, maybe you’ll think it’s because I am a superb procrastinator. Maybe you’ll think I just like taking baby steps when it comes to holiday stuff. Maybe you think it’s just me being out of step, as usual. You can think what you like. I prefer to think I’m just “old school.” Do sit down, and I’ll explain.
We are currently in the season of Advent. Advent is supposed to be a quiet time; a time of anticipation. I thrilled on Sunday morning when, during the Children’s Sermon, the pastor asked the children to be as quiet as they could, to illustrate one of the ways we get ready for Christmas. The whole church was still. Everyone was silent. I don’t even recall hearing traffic outside, or the heat kicking on, or any sound at all, until one small boy whispered, “I can’t take it anymore,” which, naturally, brought the house down.And all around us, in the consumer frenzy, the rest of the world wants us to believe that we can’t take it anymore either. We cannot be quiet. We cannot be still. Preparation and being still don’t go together. Right? But, like Jackie Chan’s character said in the new Karate Kid movie, “Being still and doing nothing are very different things.” Yeah. That’s right. I’m quoting Jackie Chan. Sue me.
Here’s another thing: did you know that the 12 Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas Day? And that, in the old church, the Twelfth Day of Christmas was January 5th, and that the season of Epiphany starts after that? Well, the season of Epiphany still starts when it always did, but that Season of Light is often unlit, because The World (remember? the one that’s setting this mad chaotic schedule?) has moved on by then. After all, it’s time to make the chocolate bunnies … for Lent …?
I confess that I am often tempted to give into some insane kind of “panic.” Oh, no! It’s December 6th already? I don’t have thecookiesmade-thegiftsboughtandwrapped-theturkeythawed-thecardsaddressed-thetreedecorated-thelightshung-thedogdresseduplikeareindeer-thesnowordered blahblahblah and a partridge in a pear tree. For the most part, though, I have developed a certain immunity to the hustle and bustle that starts on Black Friday. There are many reasons for this immunity, but let me share one: 19 years ago, I was pregnant and on bed rest starting in August. There was no “Christmas shopping” per se. I went to the hospital on Christmas Eve, which was 5 weeks before my baby girl was due, because I was having contractions. I heard two babies being born in the rooms on either side of my room that holy night, as I anticipated the way too early birth of my own child, which took place a few days later. That Christmas Eve in a hospital bed, I whispered my own encouragement to those two mothers, along with their doctors and families, through the hospital walls, and I said prayers for them. I heard their private pain turn to a shared joy that was still a bit of a mystery to me. That experience had a way of putting all things “Christmas” into perspective for me – just the first of many “gifts” my daughter has given me.
NOT that I don’t get stressed, not that I never give in to the insanity of it all, not that I don’t get mean and Scroogey sometimes when looking at a To Do List of my own crazy making. After all, everywhere you go, starting in November (!) people are asking you if you’re “ready for Christmas.” No, no. No, I’m not. Complete strangers want to know! One of these days, I’m going to embarrass myself and just say, “None of your business!” No, I won’t. But I have thought about asking, “What, exactly, do you mean by ‘ready?'”
If I thought I could get away with it, I wouldn’t put up a tree until Christmas Eve, like Loretta Young and David Niven in The Bishop’s Wife. As it is, I’ll wait until the middle of December like I always do. And, don’t get me wrong! I understand that everybody’s different. Some people like to get all the “fluff” out of the way early so they can enjoy the days leading up to Christmas, without that feeling of “falling behind” that sometimes plagues the rest of us. I so get that, and appreciate it! As always, I’m enjoying the early fruits of others’ labor! All I ask is, just don’t ask me if I’m “ready for Christmas” yet. It takes me the whole season of Advent to get really “ready” for Christmas. Okay?