My Christmas season will be very different this year. Due to foot problems—bone spurs that have torn through my tendons and painful arthritis—I am booted and off my feet for the next three weeks. Add to that my plans to be in California with our youngest son and his family for December and January, (I know, winter people . . . try not to hate me) there will be no decking the halls at our house this year. The pre-lit Christmas tree will remain boxed. So too the ornaments from Christmases past; the Christmas plates, mantle swags and outdoors urns overflowing with pine boughs and red berries. No electric candles from our house’s windows will reflect across the snow of our front yard, piercing Illinois’ winter gray mantle. All will be naked, dark and unadorned this Christmas at our house.
I am strangely disoriented by this disruption in my yearly rhythms. I love the seasons. Each one brings its own palette of colors to my home—the nursery pastels of spring followed by the full-bloom abundance of summer that deepens into the blazing umber earth tones of a copper fall, all finally resting in winter’s whites and silvers and golds. I welcome each season with table settings, potted plants, mantle arrangements and celebrations in my own home. I am a nesting type.
But I also recognize an opportunity here. With so little to distract me and no” fa-la-la-la-la-ing” going on chez Bell’s, maybe I can use the time to make room for a richer interior Christmas. Maybe it’s time for Christmas to be re-lit, re-wondered and re-established by reflecting on it a little . . . okay, a lot more. This year Christmas will be a more soulish celebration for me.
I can’t assure you that I know where this will go. I’m just inviting you to take a kind of Christmas pilgrimage with me. I’ve collected some Christmas art to share with you. And memories. The kind that stick and need to resurface from time to time to bolster our souls and our sense of awe. I hope you will share back with me your thoughts, maybe your “sticking” Christmas memories as well. Whether they sparkle with glitter and shine with laughter and family, or taste of bittersweet longing, I’d love to know your story.
So here we go. It’s nearly Thanksgiving. To me this holiday is Christmas’ bookend, leading into an entire season of memories (both of togetherness and loss) and culminating with Christmas’s bold angels-in-the-sky, Hallelujah fireworks declaring glow-in-the-dark HOPE in capital letters. These holidays meld together. Christmas needs Thanksgiving to get it started right. This end-of-fall holiday slows us down, and turns our hearts towards God and others. It brings us together. And Thanksgiving needs Christmas for its eternal perspective; the way it bathes us in goodwill assuring us of God’s good intentions for each of us, and promises peace on earth, regardless of its current conflagration. Christmas endures whatever self-destructive course the human family takes. Its message has survived every bit of shameful world history of the past 2,014 years.
So, we celebrate. We celebrate that the human race has survived each other. That we are here at all means it’s time for Thanksgiving. That’s where this holiday journey begins.
(Art by Billy Jacobs)