December Journal, Third Sunday in Advent

My husband and I are in our “gentle” years, the years leading to the great passage out of time into eternity. There are moments when I sense that I stand upon a great height, not the pinnacle of the mountain but close, and look over a landscape of friends and family, those I have known on Earth. It’s a sweeping vista also of time passed, and within the vista are rivers of rhyme and reason, suffering and love, heartache and joy. There are forests of fir, deep and dark and green, and paths through the trees to the light at the end. There are deserts, so dry as to parch the throat with the desire to drink, but there are also lakes of pure water, filled by falls of tumbling foam from rocky gorges, waters so fresh and so quenching I know I can drink with pleasure and certainty that these are living waters of life.

Our lives are indeed landscapes of loves and unloves, of life and death, holding potential for Heaven or Hell. We know this, those who have had the remarkable grace to love, and live, in our time. We know the other side as we travel through these vast landscapes. We know there is darkness, and we know there is desert.

My husband and I don’t have our Christmas tree yet, but we are thinking about it. I recall other trees we have planted in our living room, where white sheets swaddled the water basin, the sweet smell of evergreen permeating the house. The first year of the pandemic lockdowns (2020), we didn’t have the heart to decorate the tree, but managed to string the lights and put a star on top. There would be no visitors that year for Christmas, due to COVID fears (now proven exaggerated), and the effort seemed too much. Nevertheless, the tree stood there in the bay window and greeted us as we drifted around the rooms like sad fairies. The tree – nearly seven feet as I recall – became a visitor in itself, a guest that represented all the guests we missed that Christmas. We sat by the tree and listened to Handel’s “Messiah” as the many colored lights brought memory closer, gifting us with the love of family and friends, of Christmases past.

I’m thinking now how such a magnificent tree didn’t need decorating, although the following year in 2021, still locked down, we managed ornaments as well, and even garlands. And perhaps the 2020 barely decorated – forlorn – tree became a symbol for our world then, a sadly bare world, where isolation bred cold and fear, and hearts shriveled. In a way the tree, barely dressed as it were, was enough and appropriate to the time and the setting, a California Christmas in 2020. The tree became a metaphor, a poem, an artform expressing lockdowns and all that that meant for many of us.

I’m also thinking now how a Christmas tree is like a person, with dated ornaments from the past assembled in the greenery, bobbing a bit as the cat tries her luck with a raised paw. The few new ornaments added each year pulled us into the present, and as I hooked the loop on the edge of the satin, braided ball from a London shop and found a branch to house it, I appreciated the past as a glorious gift from our Heavenly Father.

And so as I envision the trees of our past and now a tree to bring home this year, 2022, I can see clearly that all of these lovely and homely bits and pieces of Christmas reflect our Creator’s great gift of the Christ Child. For Christmas is His gift to us, the celebration and the season, the trees and the trimmings, the friends and family. And the greatest gift of all is the Word made flesh, Our Lord Jesus, who dwelt among us two thousand years ago (not that long ago really), who suffered to become one of us, who humbled Himself to enter our world, who loved us so that He gave us the gift of Himself to us, his children.

And He continues to give the gift of Himself, again and again, on altars in chapels, in words said in bedtime prayers and morning Psalms. I now see that as we give to one another, whether it be a card or a greeting, we partake in the Father’s gift to us in Bethlehem. We dress our Christmas trees in sparkle and time and love, and the tree smiles back all twinkly, singing, “Merry Christmas to you, too!” and “Thanks for inviting me!”

We switch off our lamps and leave the jeweled lights burning bright through the dark forest of evergreens. We sing, “Silent Night,” and “The First Noel.” We tell the story again and again, through art and word and poetry and pageants, through sacred traditions of trees and trimmings and festive foods. We sing the story in carols. We are reminded to remember we are children of God, even from the precipice near the top of the mountain, looking over the landscape of our lives. 

We are reminded, too, that God gives us Himself unceasingly if we desire Him. We need only say, “Yes, come in to my heart, please!” and “Merry Christmas!” 

One response to “December Journal, Third Sunday in Advent

  1. The imagery is beautiful as your heart pours out its love for life. Thank you, Christine, for sharing.

    Like

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