I’ve always loved the Christmas season…mostly because I get attached to inanimate objects, sugar cookies are magical, and dancing in the living room to music is embraced.
Speaking of inanimate objects, I believed as a child that the figurines in the manger scene were not only representations of God’s birth but also leading characters in my Telenovas I made up. I’m not proud, but Mary wanted to get married to a shepherd and her disapproving Dad (Joseph) banned her from running away with him. So then her angel/fairy godmother gave her a magical donkey. I would be more embarrassed, but HAVE YOU READ THE OLD TESTAMENT?? It’s basically one long soap opera. Talking donkeys, illegitimate children, back-stabbing brothers. Logically, the nativity scene needed some inspiration.
Let me tell you, growing up in a world obsessed with Santa that was contrasted with the somber glow of the advent candles, this season felt schizophrenic. Be happy! Be sad! Be thoughtful! Be merry! Candles are holy, but lights are gaudy!
I feel the same dichotomy between the sacred and the sparkly this year. But its notes are so much more bittersweet. First Christmas as a married couple. First Christmas without my Mom. Twinkling lights on the tree, and friends popping over to drop off cookies. The reminder that the reason Jesus came is because we are broken. Our hearts are dark places.
Church yesterday reminded me that there’s freedom from the idea that the Christmas season is as good as it gets. That the current version of me is as good as it gets. I know this isn’t how I’m supposed to be.
I remember the home video from Christmas Eve of 1996 when my Dad dressed up as Santa and all of us kids danced with him in the living room as the radio played Joy to the World. If you’ve heard my Dad preach he’s shown this clip. Why? Because it was a “thin place” as Shauna Niequst says. A place where the world here gave us a glimpse of Heaven.
We all knew Dad wasn’t Santa, and it was commonplace to dance around the living room (or if you were me, to SING and DANCE everywhere). But watching that tape you can catch a glimpse of a time that was pretty special. It was sacred and it was sparkly. My Dad twirls each of us girls across the carpet, and my little brother wanders aimlessly in circles. The angelic voices of a choir permeate the room from the boom box radio perched on top of the TV stand. My Mom laughs, unseen behind the giant camcorder. Then the clip needs to be cut because we all start having pre-Christmas meltdowns by pummeling Santa and have crazed “sugarplum” looks on our faces and we try to use his stuffed belly as a launching pad for karate kicks.
The next day, it snows.