Last night before I went to bed, I pulled the box up out of the basement that holds our tree (both Ginger and I are allergic to the real ones) and we set it up in the living room. As we working, I said to Ginger, “I wonder if life was this hectic for Mary and Joseph.” We laughed. We wanted to get to it earlier. We were able to do it last night. So we cut ourselves some slack and enjoyed the lights on our tree (I wish you could see . . .). Tonight we went caroling with a group of our neighbors, which is an annual event in Old North Durham. I look forward to turning on our outside lights every night.
Still, I am finding it hard to feel in sync with the season. To feel the rhythm of the dance, if you will. When I get to Sunday mornings and am able to do my thing as the prophet, singing and reading the scripture, I feel connected to the story. Yet, somehow, I also feel a little bit like Cindy Lou Who: Where are you, Christmas?
This week our church will have our annual Blue Christmas service, which is designed to make room for the sadness and heaviness many of us carry through these days. It is one of my favorite services of the entire year, even if it’s far more quiet and meditative than is comfortable for an extrovert like me. I wish more people knew it was there. There’s enough sadness to fill the room. (Did I mention the service is 7 p.m. this Wednesday at Pilgrim UCC here in Durham?)
For all the tinsel and trappings that make up the season, the more I hear the story and work, as Meister Eckhart says, to give birth to Christ in my time and in my culture, the more I find the sadness inherent in life is intrinsic to the story. The darkness of these days is not simply something to endure to get to Christmas, these are the labor pains. The light shines in the darkness. One of the songs that always speaks to me during this season is Patty Griffin’s “Mary.” The song begins,
you’re covered in roses,
you’re covered in ashes
You’re covered in rain
you’re covered in babies,
you’re covered in slashes
You’re covered in wilderness,
you’re covered in stains
You cast aside the sheet,
you cast aside the shroud of another man
who served the world proud
you greet another son, you lose another one
on some sunny day and always stay
The angel said his name would be Emmanuel: God with us.
Who knows how many times I’ve written that sentence. It doesn’t get old to me. Here in the darkness, God with us. Even if we aren’t finished decorating.