It never fails, this time of year. It is the height of the Christmas season and, despite my very best efforts, I find my heart and my mind wandering to Life After The Holidays. It always seems to offer the promise of a certain kind of quiet. Not serenity, exactly. Just... a different frequency of chaos.
The seed catalogues arrived even earlier than usual this year but I've resisted the temptation to start dreaming of my very own Warfleigh Garden of Eden just yet. (My growing belly serving as a constant reminder that weeding and pruning will come a distant second next spring is, admittedly, a helpful tool in controlling these impulses.) Still, as Rob and I surfed through the hundreds of channels last night we passed by one of the many cooking networks just in time to see a chef slicing into a beautiful, pink fleshy cantaloupe and for a second my mind wandered to our backyard, and dreams of a trellis heavy with a dozen warm, juicy, sweet and sticky melons that are destined for many meals at our kitchen table.
Then I snapped out of it.
I love the Christmas season. It usually grips me sometime just before Thanksgiving but I put up a valiant fight against succumbing to the commercial trappings that bombard us everywhere. I roll my eyes at the displays I see at Lowes when I go pick up my autumn mums, but by the time mid-November arrives I'm secretly chomping at the bit to bake and shop and play my favorite Christmas albums. Loudly. Over and over again. (We love to sing along.) We have a lovely Thanksgiving and the very next day the Christmas preparations begin and they don't really stop until we've had the last get-together with the last relative that we couldn't possibly not see before the end of the year.
So all of a sudden here we are, days away from the holiday that annually reminds us - in tinseled and twinkled-light glory, no less - that we were all gifted with the most amazing treasure God could bestow on the world and every life here in it. But despite daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute reminders to myself, I am easily pulled into the mania of the season: so much left to bake, fighting real-life living with children and pets and a husband in an effort to keep a clean(ish) house, worrying that I've not purchased enough for him, or that I've purchased too much for her, of that I've completely forgotten someone Very Important, or that I've sabotaged my own battle to instill a sense of gratitude in my children by picking up Just One More Thing because she would love it! It's so easy to sink into not only fatigue but almost resentment about what is expected of you. The thing is, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with the expectations.
The manger was messy, and though there were gifts I don't believe Mary kept score of whose was best or who brought the most so she could reciprocate in equal measure. All Jesus needed was a warm place to sleep, a full belly, and loving protection from his parents. And He got it, with no resentment anywhere. There was life buzzing around everywhere in that barn and I can't imagine that making do with a newborn in a stable could be described as anything other than chaotic. Even so, there must have been a certain kind of quiet, too. Being in the presence of God Himself, full of grace, glory, and wonder - I imagine an overwhelming peace that comes with that. A beautiful, still fullness.
Maybe there is still time, this Christmas, to find that.