It’s the Friday before the second weekend in December. My approaching day is full of party prep activities, Christmas card pickups, grocery shopping runs with three children. I feel tired before I even peel my face off of the pillow.
Nevertheless, I get up early to sit, breathe, read, pray. For the moment, our house and its inhabitants are quiet, windows still turning a shoulder to darkness.
Each day this dark encroaches further, stealing into our hours of light.
It will continue to do this until the winter solstice, December 21st. On that day, Earth’s northern pole will see twenty-four hours of solid darkness.
It’s strange. We call Christmas the season of light, though in reality, it’s the exact opposite.
Christmas descends into the darkest hours of our year.
Here on the farm, we’ve found the miniature nails and hung the aging, craft-store garland that somehow survives year to year. The tree is brilliant in a new corner of the living room, a wonder after having fallen on the piano and the floor three times so far. Almost every room hosts a new light, sparkle, shine.
But outside, darkness weaves into the fabric of winter blue sky sooner than we’re ready for.
It seems as though there is less time.
Which isn’t true, exactly, but no one quite believes it. The first wave of holiday busyness is in full swing, and we’ve started to feel the pinch. The presents that took too long to find and cost a little too much. The magical cookie making that turned into a three hour flour-and-sugar marathon. The half-empty boxes of decorations waiting to be sifted through, hung, arranged.
And everyone tells us to slow down, pause, be present….and then buy this. Wear that. Hang this. Smell that.
It knows, deep down, we’re afraid. Afraid of missing the season, never quite engaging, spending our time going through the motions, producing cheap shine and scraps of tinsel.
Every December, we set off on a great journey to the 25th. It looks nothing like the journey of the original Christmas story, the one where Joseph and his very pregnant betrothed, Mary, walked/rode on a donkey for 80 miles to follow a government mandate and register for a census.
We see concerts. They saw the backside of the donkey in front of them. We splurge on special foods. They ate travel food – stale bread, hard cheese, watered down wine (hardly the recommended diet for a pregnant mother.) We snuggle down deep in our beds. They slept on the cold, rocky ground.
It was, in fact, only day after day of hardship that finally led them to a dusty, crap-smelling stable in Bethlehem.
It’d be easy to miss that, too.
A baby born in the darkness of a cow barn, supposedly a king.
A baby foretold to make a way for mankind.
A way to find God. To stop going through the motions and know Him.
To hear Him. See Him.
To be illuminated by the Light of the world.
Which has nothing to do with what kind of appetizers I set out for a party… and everything to do with the way I love and bless my guests when they walk into my kitchen.
Nothing to do with presents… and everything to do with the appreciation they convey.
Nothing to do with picture perfect cards… and everything to do with the way they encourage and brighten others.
To purpose to see every small celebration of the season as a pinprick of light, a joyful response.