I remember the childhood tenderness evoked by the thought of Baby Jesus in the manger. When I was older, it was the courage of Mary that struck a true humility in me as a young mother. I still shake my head at the faith it must have taken to believe that by following a star one would find a king. I can't help but smile when I think about how I finally understood that the angels weren't telling the shepherds not to feel afraid because they were seeing angels, but they no longer needed to fear anything.
Christmas is work now. It's figuring out how to stretch a budget that already feels like a worn out rubber band. It's trying to find the time to shop and the patience to avoid road rage after being stuck at one red light through five color changes because traffic is so heavy. It's helping people find party dresses knowing that I'll be going home alone to a silent house. I look around and see rudeness, greed and ego inflated entitlement. I look a little farther and see need so overwhelming that I feel like a spoiled brat for thinking I have problems. It's feeling so drained when I get to a church service that I'm emotionally numb.
As I've aged, my tastes have changed. When I was a kid, I loved the creaminess of milk chocolate, but now I savor dark chocolate with its bitter edge. Similarly, I can't settle for a simple, holly, jolly Christmas. It takes too much denial on my part, and I feel like I disrespect its intricacy when I settle for a superficial, happy holiday face. I'll enjoy the tinsel and twinkling lights. I'll wish you a Merry Christmas and mean it, but I'll also wipe tears as I wrap the few presents I'm giving and remember different days. Christmas is complex magic. It's beauty, awe, joy, wonder, innocence, generosity, and it's tackiness, regret, pain, wrenching loss and deep sadness. Hallelujah! I get to experience it all.