Oh, Night Divine

Joyous expectation.

For reasons that I will probably uncover and clarify only as I write this post, I am looking forward to the holidays this year. I've erred more on the side of the Grinch than Buddy* in previous Decembers, but one could argue that this is a natural consequence of working in the service industry, where you can't escape the Christmas music and there are always some random, useless products that must be sold if the lumbering, ancient bark is going to make it through the dead waters of January and February.

I don't know why, but this year I feel as though the whole thing is somehow more... holy. Probably somewhere between going to an All Soul's Day Episcopal service structured around Faure's Requiem, and the realization that most of my Christmas budget ended up going to a mechanic so I'm going to have to get creative, and oh, let's not forget that Maria won't be here this year, so no Christmas cookie party or cherished sister time...

I wanted this to be more eloquent, and it was, in my head, two hours ago when I was blissfully stabbing cloves into oranges and listening to choral renditions of (actually) classic Christmas songs. But I suppose it just comes down to this: it has been a hard year. I'm not where I want to be, even when I'm being gracious with myself; and I have tasted something of the bitter side of life in a way that I've been avoiding for a long time.

But as I begin to ascend into the heights of December, I look back across the wasteland and what stands out to me are the bright spots of love and joy and hope. And it strikes me in this moment that there is something magnificent and sacred about celebration, and that something arises not out of an innocent naivety, but rather from the admission that the world is often neither kind nor good, and yet we are not going to allow that to govern our response to it.

Celebration is an act of resistance. It is a backbone of steel disguised by holly wreaths and pine garlands, surrounded by carols that redound with those words with which I began: joyous expectation. That, to me, is Advent. The building sense of expectation, the serene image of the pregnant woman curled around the life within her, as the whole world waits, breathless, for a miracle to take place.

So if you care to join me, I'm going to be filling my house with paper snowflakes, having holiday gatherings, making wassail and Christmas cookies, going to church unusually often, and hopefully experiencing Christmas in the time-honored way, which has very little to do with presents and everything to do with cultivating a holy sense of peace, expectation, and joy.

*To be clear: I will never be Buddy. I hate Elf, and I think Zooey Deschanel is annoying. Gauntlet: thrown.

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