Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Christmas season.


All my roommates can attest that the Christmas season starts, for me, in October.  That’s when I begin baking cookies and planning presents and hanging Christmas lights and dancing wildly around my room while conducting the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Carol of the Bells.
Yeah, I’m that girl.  I’m Christmasing before Macy’s.
I’ve toned it down for Kristi (no decorations till Thanksgiving) but I’m still blasting the Muppet Christmas Carol “It Feels Like Christmas” on my commute.  First snow?  You bet I’m playing in it.  And on the altar of my heart, all year round, is a string of white Christmas lights.
I’m a Christmas kid.
I was raised a Christmas kid.  Come November, our house was full of Italian cookies baking.  Mom and Dad put up a pine tree every year even though Mom was allergic and it made a heroic mess of the floor.  In December, we hung a wooden Christmas tree with a drawer for every day - an Advent calendar with an ornament for each day till Christmas Eve.  We filled every shelf with Santas and carefully set up Mom’s dime-store creche.  And on Christmas Eve, the whole neighborhood set out luminaria:
Christmas means family and tradition - especially of my mom, who worked so hard to give me a normal childhood in the midst of my dad’s compounding illness and my growing loneliness.  
Then I went to Saint Olaf College where CHRISTMAS IS INESCAPABLE.
Christmas trees in the commons.  A fire in Fireside.  Lutefisk and lefse in the caf.  Alumni showed up in snowflake sweaters.  
And stressed out students steal the caf trays just to slide Old Main Hill, and above quiet hours you’ll hear Boe Chapel bells.
And I sang in the Saint Olaf Choir and guys there is NOTHING LIKE THIS.  ANYWHERE.  EVER.
Ever.
And then:
I met this incredible, amazing, wonderful, brilliant, compassionate, funny, wonderful woman.  And we fell in love.  And it was Christmas.
How could I not be a Christmas kid after all this?  How could I not be unbearably exuberant at the first sign of snow?  How could I not have a smartphone half-full of carols and choirs? 
But.
Good and loving and lectionary-conscious friends remind me every year that I’m rushing the Advent season by starting my Christmas music at the same time as department stores.  I’m not waiting for Christ properly.  I’m not taking time, savoring the season, waiting in the darkness for the light to shine.
To this I say:  Tough Christmas cookies.
I know what they mean.  And I won’t subject anyone to my ridiculous Christmasing before the time is due.  But the Christmas season has become, for me, more than cookies and choirs and tradition and celebration.  It’s more than presents and It’s a Wonderful Life and eggnog.  
It’s the kingdom of G-d on earth and it’s bursting out the church door into every corner of the world.
At the heart of everything the secular culture puts us through to get to Christmas - the constant chirp of spend! spend! spend! and the endless renditions of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on the radio - is something good and real and trustworthy.  Something about love and compassion and generosity.  Something about G-d bless us, every one! and G-d rest ye merry gentlemen and turning the world around.  It is, truly, “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Maybe it’s just the naiveté of a silly twenty-five-year-old who ought to know better, but my heart’s choir is singing O Holy Night all year round, and I hope to G-d-with-us it always is.

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