Thursday, December 24, 2009
I feel like there are two holidays happening simultaneously this time of year. They are both called Christmas, but they couldn't be more different from each other. There's the one that is based on the secular Roman holiday of Saturnalia. That's the one where we give gifts and hang lights in the days leading up to December 25th. It's the holiday that looks a lot like other secular holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween - with family traditions front and center and lots of cultural expressions of wealth, consumption, and good cheer. I like this Christmas quite a bit.
Then there is the other Christmas, the one that starts on December 25th instead of ending on that day. This is a quieter holiday, preceded by four weeks of darkness and waiting, of lighting candles and remembering the advent of One who came once, and who those of my faith believe is somehow coming still. I remember thinking, last year, that I liked this holiday so much better, especially the Advent part of it. Advent just fit my mood. It was waiting - waiting in the darkness of the new church year, the darkness of the beginning our adoption journey, the darkness of the sunless Seattle winter.
If last year was Advent, then this year, oh this is Christmas. The Christmas of my faith, the day that comes after so much long waiting in the darkness, the arrival of the One (so small, like our little one) who will change everything.
Tonight we marked this Christmas, the one that starts at midnight on this night, in the sacred space of our parish hall, surrounded by my many little ones. As I corralled kids, and we went through the little lesson that my church does at the first mass of Christmas eve, where the children build the creche while the we all sing I looked over their heads to see my daughter's fuzzy curls, all wrapped up on her father's chest. The children all around me were wide eyed, over-eager, and oh-so-careful to bring each piece of the nativity scene past the altar to where Mother Melissa waited. Their presence brought chaos and wonder in equal parts to the mass, something our place needs and is learning to treasure. Likewise my little one brings her own chaos and wonder to our life, to this Christmas season, to all the days to come. Like the baby so very long ago she is only the beginning. I wish for her wonderful and beautiful things, and know there are also terrible and sad things ahead for her, I want for her all of the things that make human life so very unique and so very ours.
There are wonderful times and places for the first Christmas - for the lights that make their own sort of wonder in the darkness, for the family celebrations that make tradition and mark time in their own ways, for the food and the gifts and the sugar-sugar-sugar. I like that Christmas.
But the other Christmas is my Christmas this year especially. It is, for me, a little brown baby, a hope fulfilled after long, long waiting, and that sweet strange promise of very precious and human days to come.
Whatever your Christmas, or Holy-day, or Holiday is this year, I wish you warmth and wonder. Failing that, I wish you patience and endurance. Regardless, I wish you hope.
Happy Christmas, from A+A...and also Baby J.