This year was not feeling like Christmas.
We’ve all had those “off” years, so you know what I’m talking about.
If you’re a mother, on whom the majority of the Christmas production rests, then you really know what I’m talking about.
The air didn’t smell right. There wasn’t enough snow on the ground.
I kept looking for a missing box of Christmas decorations. There was no box missing. But something felt absent.
I thought maybe it was the lack of a tree, that beacon of Christmas. We were late this year in getting a tree, later than we’ve ever been. But on Saturday we finally shivered our way through the tree-hunting tradition and brought home the loveliest spruce ever to grace the Lewis living room.
And though our house smelled of fresh-cut wood, it still didn’t feel like Christmas.
Then on Sunday evening we ventured with our boys to downtown Minneapolis for a performance of George Frideric Handel’s "Messiah."
Five minutes in, the kids were sliding out of their seats. I wasn’t sure we’d make it to intermission.
Then something happened, the way things always happen in live music or theater. We were slowly pulled into the music and into the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. The baritone soloist quaked his way through his arias with power and precision. The countertenor promised us that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”
Then the choir came in with its bright promise: “For unto us a Child is born.” My kids sat straight up. They knew this song.
By Part II, we were all captivated. Not only that, but we knew what was coming. We could feel the energy of the audience growing, and even if there was no tradition of rising during the “Hallelujah Chorus,” I don’t think I would have been able to help myself. We all jumped to our feet for that remarkable song.
The concert continued with the soprano aria, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” a song as light and delicate as a snowflake. Then another favorite, the baritone/trumpet victory song, “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
By this time I could feel the pieces of my tattered soul coming back together. It really didn’t matter if the Christmas letters went out late, or if my kids didn’t get the most perfect gift ever made. I needed to remember that my Redeemer lives “and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”
The "Messiah" ended with the triumphant choral number, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever. Amen.”
After the concert, we drove home under a dark sky that smelled and looked like Christmas. A giant moon hung in the rafters.
I thought of Handel, of the furious 24 days in which he composed the "Messiah." In the time it takes my kids to pop every chocolate out of their Advent calendars, he had written one of the most inspired musicals scores the world has ever known.
It’s recorded that when Handel wrote the “Hallelujah Chorus” he had tears streaming down his face. He later told his manservant: “I did think I did see all heaven before me and the great God himself.”
In that concert, with my family by my side, I saw a glimpse of that. I saw a glimpse of Christmas.