I’ve always been one of those purists who doesn’t want to see any Christmas decorations or hear any Christmas songs or eat anything that tastes like peppermint or cinnamon until after Thanksgiving, because there’s a schoolmarm living on my shoulder who says that we must keep the season unto itself so that it will remain precious and unspoilt.
But this year I’m throwing that out the window. Maybe it’s because my mom has been texting me potential dates for the Christmas party they’re throwing this year, or maybe it’s because the books sitting next to me on the couch right now are Thomas Cahill’s The Gift of the Jews, Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, and Malcolm Guite’s Waiting on the Word, all of which sound like promises. But more likely the reason that my roommate and I took a detour the other night in Harris Teeter to prowl around for chocolate advent calendars is that in the last few months, and even especially in the last few weeks, I have been learning how little control I have over my own life and any goodness that comes from it, and how every neat little security structure I have set up will eventually fail me, sometimes in a spectacular fashion. But when I think of Christmas coming in forty-three days, I feel peaceful in a way that cannot possibly make sense to the outside world.
The advent of Christmas means the advent of a Savior, a Savior who will fulfill everything the prophecies foretold and see this thing through to the bitter, wine-on-a-pike end, all the way through to the blinding new life on the other side. So I’ve had a change of heart, like Scrooge, because it is more and more wonderfully apparently that Jesus is not only a rock, but the only solid one, and I want to try to “keep Christmas all the year” to remind myself.
Something else I’m doing this fall, besides learning hard lessons that I thought I already knew, is interviewing women about their faith. The first question I have been asking right off the bat is “Tell me your favorite Bible story.” So that’s how I’m going to keep Christmas today. I’m going to tell you the story.
It begins with a scared girl who is trusting, trusting and a good man with her who is trusting, trusting. The two of them are headed on a trip away from home to obey the law of the land, and then in a strange barn on the old hay with the smell of manure there is pain and terror and blood and then a crying baby, alongside the sleepy animals.
And an angel comes, but not to Joseph and Mary, to some tired shepherds on a nearby hillside. The angel announces joy to the shepherds, that the newborn in the feeding trough has come to save them, that this is God’s plan and they are the first the hear news of this One who bears peace and goodwill into the world. The angel brings a whole singing host with him. So the shepherds hurry to worship, and then they hurry to tell the story as far and wide as they can.
And there is a star too, a big, bright one, but not for Joseph and Mary. Instead the star is for men in the East who follow it to travel far and risk their lives to give the tiny King the worship that they somehow know they owe him.
And the scared girl who trusted gathers and treasures all these things in her heart. And so do we, because this is the promise of things to come.
Oh, joyful and triumphant, come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!