When Christmas Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

some changes are less than enjoyable, at least at the outset. I say this because everyone has a moment when Christmas changes.

For the last twenty-some odd years, I have had a very predictable routine regarding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve meant a strange, anxious day leading into a beautiful Christmas Eve service at church, followed by dinner at my grandfather’s house with our huge family. (Now, I also understand that my memory often betrays me, so this may have been going on for less time than I imagine.) Then, Christmas morning would arrive with Dolly Parton singing as we opened gifts and ate breakfast. We’d play most of the day, unless we had church, and then drive to my grandmother’s house for another meal with our huge family, and a few extras.

This year my routine was thrown off. Events conspired to make our Christmas Eve dinner disappear, for the most part. I saw a theater movie that day, which I wasn’t used to. I didn’t spend time outside drinking in the anticipation, and spent a good chunk of the day inside baking. None of this is a complaint, but rather a thinking-through of my own mental state. We still had a lovely service, which did help.

For some reason Christmas felt… strange this year. As if Christmases going forward would be different. New traditions would have to be forged and old ones set aside on a cherished shelf. I’m sure everyone has the moment where time seems to suddenly shudder forward as if it had been holding its place for long enough. This was that year for me.

I’m beginning to understand now the trepidation with which many adults, and some younger people, approach Christmas every year. It seems like some unstoppable titan stomping into an already busy time of life bringing with it all of the bittersweet-ness of hope, excitement, nostalgia, and memory in its overflowing bag of gifts.

I wonder if this is how Jesus’ closest friends felt near Passover each year. When the year would turn a corner and suddenly they would be faced with both the troubling memory of loss and the stunning glory of hope. I wonder if their preparations were slow, deliberate, instead of the frantic arrangements made just before that terrible night. What would they think as they ate that meal together, remembering and looking ahead?

I guess I’m writing this to give voice to a feeling I’m sure others have had. It’s perfectly ok to reflect, to feel a sense of solemnity when change happens. Sure, accepting the change and moving ahead comes in its own time, but it is necessary to sit with the feeling and allow it to run its course.

May you all have a blessed new year.

(We’ll have a more lighthearted post on Thursday.)

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