Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Christmas Fulfilled

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, 
everything is softer and more beautiful."

- Norman Vincent Peale

When I was young, I used to prepare for Christmas as if I were making a month-long forced march up a steep, unrelenting mountain trail. Chores, obligations, and foot-long to-do lists weighed down my every step. And when I finally reached the mountain-top high of the season on Christmas Day, I felt like I had just a moment to admire the view. The day was over in a snap, and at midnight, I had no choice but to leap from the summit, falling back to earth with a bone-crunching thud and a litter of credit card bills.

This makes me sad, for this is not how Christmas was meant to be.

Or maybe the season of Christmas is like a rose. In early December, tightly furled buds appear and slowly grow to maturity within their closed petals. 

I now understand that the month of preparation - called Advent - is meant to be a joyous affair in its own right. Rather than a death march; Advent compares to a peaceful hike up a mountainside where my expended effort is offset by immediate satisfaction as well as mounting excitement over what is still to come.

Rather than packing all the festivities into a brief 24-hour pause on December 25, I now celebrate Christmas Day as the high point of the twelve-day-long festival of Christmastide. The joy of the season plays out slowly and satisfyingly over the days, and I can take the time to breathe and relax and soak up the experience.

Those extra eleven days feel to me like a ride back down the mountain in an aerial cable car.

I'm still enraptured with the glory of the mountaintop high while slowly and almost imperceptibly, the cable car carries me through the forest tree tops and flurrying snowflakes toward the solid ground - still far below - of everyday life.

On Christmas morning, the petals finally open to reveal the layers and ruffles of a perfectly formed blossom. But on that first day, we get just a glimpse of the flower's full potential as it has yet to completely unfold. 

Just as the Twelve Days of Christmas draw to a close, the feast of Epiphany arrives on January 6.

That's today.

This day, which celebrates the three kings' visit to the newborn baby Jesus, marks the resolution of the Christmas season. As my family celebrated tonight with homemade soup and one last round of simple gifts, I felt the cable car of Christmas gently bump down at its landing point. I heard the doors whoosh open, allowing me to disembark in peace; I smelled the sharp scent of pine still in the air, fainter than before but still crisp and clear, reminding me that the gifts of Christmas are mine to take with me as I step off into the new year.

The full Twelve Days of Christmas allow our rose to bloom luxuriantly, petals fully rolled back in its abundant glory, playing out every moment of its indescribably beauty until at last we are satisfied, and the flower gently fades. 

This - this - is how Christmas is meant to be.

I'm glad I finally learned.

* * * * *

Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas with me!

The Ninth Day

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