Waiting on Christmas
It doesn’t feel like Christmas. Though, I’ve not thought about it much before now, but I don’t know what Christmas feels like. I know what memories of Christmas bring up in me, what joy or sadness or magic those photographs and recollections make me feel.
I remember specific details when Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song plays. The scratch of a record player spinning in a shag-carpeted living room, and later the 8-track tape spooling. Those songs follow me all the way to my own children and all our addresses over the years.
Maggie and I marched in stiff, toy-like formation to Harry Connick, Jr.’s “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” We watched The Santa Claus 2 approximately 250 times because toddler Aidan loved it. Audrey opened up every life-like doll she received over the years, and we knew our family had increased in size, in car seat capacity, in every life-like way she could incorporate her new babies.
Miles and miles of travel, even when we lived in the same state as our families of origin. 7-layer bars and bourbon balls. Hunky Soup. Chinese food on Christmas Eve. One million Christmas Eve services when John pastored. The Awaited show at Crossroads Cincinnati. Behold the Lamb of God.
Christmases past, I know those. They are familiar. This Christmas, and maybe because it’s not here yet, seems illusive and distant.
It’s not for lack of trying. Through an Advent book, Jotham’s Journey, I pulled back off the shelves after years of my kids being too old for it, through Lectio Divina, through music—in any way I know how, I’m placing myself as close to the Gospel narratives as I can.
We sat at the scuffy table, my friend and me. The Advent candles burned, and we talked about how utterly nonsensical it is that God put on human flesh and placed God’s divinity inside the uterus of a teenage girl. We had our own conversational version of Rich Mullins’s song “Boy Like Me/Man Like You.” We marveled and shook our heads at the tender and intimate love of God. That Jesus would be born in the normal way, through a woman’s birth canal, that Jesus would cry and pee on his mommy. We decided that the transcendence of God astounds and leaves us, rightly so, in a heap of wonder and even plain confusion.
A few weeks ago at church, I penned notes in my journal about the unbelievability that a host of angels, God’s mighty warrior beings, visited the most unlikely group of humans. I imagined them, the disregarded and unclean shepherds, receiving a shocking appearance. Further, a shocking announcement sung to them, given to them, first, before the elites, before the teachers and keepers of the Law. I keep thinking about that one, wondering how many of us either relegate ourselves to the outcast places, where even the angels can’t break into songs of Good News, or relegate whomever we deem unworthy to the outer regions where glad tidings of great joy is really only for some people.
Even with my efforts, even playing Christmas music while I type, it doesn’t feel like what I think it should feel like. It doesn’t yet feel like most the memories that rise to the top, the ones with glowing twinkle lights on cedar trees, the ones with icicle tinsel on my grandmothers’ trees, the ones with my kids and my brother's kids reading the Christmas story. The anticipation leading to it is hardly present.
Maybe it feels more like I’m waiting for the band of warrior-messengers to bust through the stark night of our times and make us sore afraid, proclaim to us that Messiah is here. Maybe it feels like grownup Christmas, when the little kids don’t half-sleep on Christmas Eve, and I just miss my family like it used to be. Maybe it feels more like the winter solstice keeps dragging on and on.
Or maybe it feels like it should. Like we are the weary world in sin and error pining, and we might feel the rejoicing if we noticed our dear Savior here. Like the angel voices are singing, if I will listen, and singing in ways I didn’t and don’t expect. Like God in human flesh is among us, and we can learn to love one another, because his law is love and his gospel is peace, all year round and not just at Christmastime. Like I just need to feel the weight of it, afresh, to fall on my knees, again.