Although the sun has just come out, this dreary day is not completely gone. I unclasp my hands from around my hardened heart, squeezed tight by the news of the day. A suitcase left unpacked, presents hastily purchased; decorations leftover from past holidays are awkwardly set aside to keep them safe from the cat. It’s time again to remember why we do this. It’s Christmas again.
Traditions, passing from generation to generation, have changed. The tree went up on Christmas Eve, presents never appearing until the next morning. Anticipation was the best part of the season, I was told. In the next twelve days, porcelain wise men made their way from the back of our church sanctuary to the manger scene in front, pausing along the way at stained glass windows festooned with pine. Ceramic statues placed there by the loving hands of altar women, serving God as a baby.
Some say the only reason for the season is the annual axial tilt, but children falling asleep in the midst of midnight vigils waiting for Santa Claus bear witness to other reasons. There may be snow where I am headed in the morning, but not here. Today’s wet warmth here may be truer to the day Jesus was born. Truer than the cards we write and the carols we sing.
And as our neighbors and friends flock to worship, we go too. Having been left alone on the stark hillside of this starry night, like sheep, we follow our instincts in the darkness. Having heard the news, we too enter into humankind’s great procession: a great noisy din loud enough to wake the divine child sleeping within. Only the mother quietly ponders all that is in her heart; the mother remains silently holding the future in her arms.
Researched and well-read this time, the reason for the season will not elude me. Christmas come again will remind me why we do this. The famous star wasn’t a star at all. Possibly a comet, possibly the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, still it remains a beacon to a season pulled forward in time towards one more verse of “Away in a Manger,” towards one more shout of “Great Joy.”
Today I remember the legend that animals are given the gift of speech on Christmas Eve. Mid-wives to the Christ child, the animals were blessed by their presence on this holy night. I eye my cat warily, remembering too, that the legend warns that it is unlucky to hear an animal speak. Some magic is best when it is only anticipated. Christmas again is best when remembered, left unexplained.