Well. We are IN it. Ready or not, we are well into Christmas week at this point. It is indeed happening. How’s everybody doing out there? White-knuckling or going with the flow, I wish you all the smoothest, most cheerful, most serene of holidays. Failing that, I wish you a rant this good:
I haven’t had to do any rants. I’ve been a little behind the season this year, though. Christmas snuck up on a lot of us, with Thanksgiving so late and the weather so tropical-arctic-tropical these days. I’m Episcopalian and therefore I take Advent seriously, anyway, which means that instead of balls-to-the-wall Christmas festivities starting at Halloween, you’re supposed to take the lead-up to December 25th as a time of preparation, reflection, and waiting. You decorate, of course, and you can even put out your treasured family nativity sets, but You May Not Put Baby Jesus in the center yet. Baby Jesus starts out in a far corner of the house, and travels a teeny bit each day, closer and closer to the manger. He doesn’t join the gathered parents and wise men and stable animals until Christmas morning. Or, you know, whatever YOUR childlike self chooses to do to remind your adult self not to rush the season. You’re really not even supposed to bust out the full-on Christmas hymns, Joy to the World and Angels We Have Heard on High, until it’s good and time. Up until the last Sunday of Advent, you’re on In the Bleak Midwinter, and maybe you go as far as Lo How A Rose, but Hark the Herald Angels Sing? Unthinkable.
We cheat, in my church. We are very restrained and patient up until the night of the Christmas pageant, and then all bets are off. You don’t even try to keep a lid on things after the Christmas pageant. It’s complete and utter mayhem, in the most joyous and pure sense of pageants, and there are a couple of hundred kids dressed as lions and raccoons and cows and standing around the manger, and the misbehaving Heavenly Host up in the choir loft shouting GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST at the right time, and a real baby who behaves sometimes and sometimes not, and this year there was an itty bitty donkey who had pigtails and had a sneezing fit every time she got next to the hay in the manger scene.
It is always glorious.
It is usually when my Christmas spirit kicks in. That didn’t happen this year; the pageant was a week earlier than usual. I wasn’t ready. Sometimes it kicks in at the Oakwood walk we do around the neighborhood, where my friends and I skip the actual tour but take cocktails and stroll around at night to see the lights. Occasionally it will kick in at a Christmas party, and although I’ve been to several and enjoyed them all, I just…haven’t felt much of anything. I’ve been happy; I’ve been grateful; I’ve been tired; I’ve been busy- but I’m usually all of those things anyway. Nothing felt much like Christmas.
I busted out the Christmas music in the office on Friday, post-mimosas at our Dirty Santa party. I’d uploaded my favorite old Christmas CDs to ITunes, and first out of the gate was For Unto Us A Child Is Born, and BOOM. Christmas spirit all over me. And that one is SO much fun to sing along with in the car, but I had to be much more restrained at my desk. Then there was Sarah Brightman singing Ave Maria, and Josh Groban singing O Holy Night, and when he gets to that verse “chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease…” I am always choked up by the “ever, ever praise we” part. If I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day comes on, you have to promise you won’t even look at me because I will be a mess. It happened in my car Sunday, and that sad verse “and in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth goodwill to men” is so world-weary and jaded, but then! Dramatic Key Change! and you’re singing with all of your heart, THEN PEALED THE BELLS MORE LOUD AND DEEP! God is not dead, nor doth he sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men!” And that is just poetry, and how are you not crying along with me right now?
There’s Jimmy Buffet Christmas, and there’s Elvis Christmas, and there’s old-fashioned Christmas music, and there’s new people doing our old favorites; there’s music from Christmas specials and music that little kids sing at the mall, and music that takes you back in time to when you were ten and learning Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella in French class and it sounded like the most elegant thing in the world to know, or when you were seventeen and marching down the aisles of the auditorium in a floor length blue Glee Club dress with a candle singing the descant of Hark the Herald Angels Sing for the Christmas concert. With the exception, maybe, of the dreadful Merry Christmas, Darling, there is hardly any Christmas music anywhere that you’d want to shut off. Most of it, Blue Christmas most especially, is irresistible and delightful, and even more so if you sing along with the car windows rolled down and the dawg looking at you funny.
I’m not really going anywhere with any of this. My bags are packed, presents wrapped, errands finished. The Baby Jesus from my nativity set has made it inches, just inches from the manger scene, and is currently hanging out next to my Abominable Snowman ornament under the tiny Christmas tree. From here on out it’s a four-alarm Family Christmas, and I’m looking forward to all of it. I packed bourbon, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be singing all the way there in the car, and will be radiating goodwill and drinking coffee from that rest stop in Alamance County that has mochas from a vending machine for $1.
Peace and love to you all. Merry Christmas, friends. Let’s meet back here soon to discuss.