Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Many Faces of Christmas...

Confession: in this different and difficult holiday season, I have been
unable to get into the "Christmas Spirit". Part of it is due to the fact
that I have been coping with a particularly nasty upper respiratory
bug since December 7th- only now beginning to feel like myself...to
have any energy at all. During those weeks, I found myself unable
to read- eyes burning, no powers of concentration- instead binge-
watching "Madame Secretary" and coughing- and coughing and
coughing. Finally saw the PA last Friday, was diagnosed with a sinus
infection (which I had already self-diagnosed) and have been taking
an antibiotic ever since, plus having my sleep aided and abetted by
a powerful cough medicine, thanks be. I had not slept through the
night for nine consecutive nights due to the coughing and I NEED

And so, today, feeling like ME for the first time in two weeks, I
began doing things to help me get into the spirit of the season,
only to find that Christmas this year (perhaps every year, but
especially in this year of our Lord 2016) has many and varied
faces, not all of them expected or joyful. As I went through my
day, they began revealing themselves in ways both surprising
and heart-rending...and humbling. Perhaps you've seen some
of them, too.

*the joy I can imagine on the face of my Rwandan "son" when
he receives the birthday/graduation gift I sent via Western
Union this morning, the combined gift of a number of amazing
and supportive and caring women.

*the beautiful baby-face of the newborn daughter of a precious
Rwandan friend in Kigali.

*the deeply-grieving face of a friend who told me, after our chance
meeting at Harris Teeter, that her daughter had lost her baby after
only two month of pregnancy, a baby much desired and longed-for.
There will be empty arms for this family this Christmas, even as the
rest of us celebrate another birth. And this dear woman is also facing
the first Christmas since the death of her husband earlier this year.

*the can't-look-at-without-weeping faces of the children of Aleppo,
Syria, as they are experiencing what no child should ever have to

*The smiling, beautiful, healthy faces of my grandchildren gazing
back at me from my refrigerator door.

*the faces of the dear departed in my family, ever-present for me
on the small credenza in the upstairs hallway, this year's addition
my sister, Kathy.

 *The incredible smile on my own face as I gazed at the beautiful,
special Christmas gift commissioned for me by my eldest grand,

And even as I baked the first of my Christmas cookies, listening to
favorite holiday albums on the CD player (yes, I am hopelessly
old school), my mind and heart were filled with all of these faces of
Christmas, and I find I cannot look away, cannot stop the tears from
falling, cannot stop my heart from breaking again and again as joy
and sorrow mix as surely as the snickerdoodle ingredients in my glass
mixing bowl. Even as my house is redolent with the odor of fresh-
baked cookies; even as the mantle and windows are alight, offering
a welcome; even as the fireplace is aglow with a comforting, warm
fire, I am aware of the melancholy which is creeping over me,
stealing away the joy I am supposed to be feeling, these five days
before Christmas- but don't.

And so, tomorrow evening, I will go, with bowed head and heart, to
the Longest Night Service at our church, a service of prayer and
comfort designed especially for those of us who are struggling with
Christmas this year. There, I will join with others to be the Body of
Christ in this place, fully aware that the precious Baby in the Manger
we so delight in welcoming also became the Man of Sorrows, the one
who enters into and understands our pain. And in that truth, I can
rest and find peace. Perhaps you can, too. A blessed and peace-
filled Christmas.

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