I know I’m not the only one. I join the scores of thousands of children all over the world who are just getting through today, counting down the minutes until the designated moment. The trees are lit,; the menorahs are too. The gifts are wrapped. Everyone is just waiting.
We’ve already done most of our family Christmas traditions. My brother and his wife will be leaving for her family’s home this morning, so we had Christmas dinner yesterday, complete with Christmas poppers, Christmas tissue paper crowns, and a rousing rendition of “We Three Kings” on our numbered Christmas whistles before watching all of the classic Christmas movies: Charlie Brown, Rudolph, the Grinch. It was a wonderful Christmas Eve Eve.
This morning, the lovely couple is preparing to depart, my sister is sleeping, my mom is cleaning the kitchen, and my dad is at the office, preparing his Christmas Eve sermon for tonight. Christmas is changing for our family. Even so, the core of Christmas, the story I woke up thinking about, is the same.
I mean, but it is it? The story changes as I change. I understand it different and better and worse, and it gets clearer and more obscured the older I get.
It’s like Santa. As a kid, you sing the songs and draw the pictures and get excited for gifts, whether or not they’re from the big man. You learn he represents generosity and kindness. And then you grow up and think about what Santa means economically, and socially, and racially, and historically, and spiritually, and commercially, and familialy. It’s a wonder we don’t get exhausted and give up.
Tonight’s the final Advent candle. The Christ candle.
If there’s anything I know for sure this Christmas, that this Advent season has taught me, it’s that I don’t really understand hope. I don’t really understand peace, or joy, or love. I don’t understand what it means to have a king. I don’t know what it means to have a child. I don’t know what it means to leave one’s livelihood for hope.
But I’m starting to understand the need to stop work for the sake of the soul. And I’m barely starting to understand the joy that a child can bring into a world, even a normal human child and not a Godself child. And I’m realizing the need to have my passions, my dreams, my hopes, my desires managed by a kindly ruler.
So tonight, at the Christmas Eve service, while my father tells the Christmas story, I’ll hope in the dark to understand more fully. I’ll make peace with myself and this violent world, listening to the silence. I’ll sit in the joy of this serious world, be willing and present. And I’ll love because I was first loved: those around me, those away from me, those in Alberta and Oregon and Minnesota and Alabama and Florida and New York and Missouri and Texas, those I’ve lost and those I’ve found.
And I’ll think about Christ, who is the only possible way I can hope, peace, joy, and love. Christ, who has come and is coming and will come every year, forever and ever, amen.
Praise be to God. Merry Christmas.