If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.
Joy to the world! December enters as no pauper. It comes dressed in finery of tinsel and garlands trumpeted by glorious music. It awakens the promise of miracles, be it a baby born long ago or a light that burns for eight days or wonderful celebrations of life. It turns us all into wide-eyed children. It fills our lives with laughter and friends and family if we are lucky enough to have them, and brings great longing and loneliness to those without. It comes with hustle and bustle and noise, yet as the month progresses, whispers for quiet and hopes for reflection as we near the end of the year.
Each year, our own holiday season becomes a new experience built upon the holidays past. As children, our everyday world becomes extraordinary as we press our noses to toy-store windows and dream of magical things. Then we grow up and move on, and we become the ones who keep the traditions and tell the tales. We rediscover again just who we are as we pull out the trappings of the holiday, the Christmas ornaments, the Hanukkah candles, the pictures and cards. All the memories flood in to help us plan and renew friendships and strengthen family ties.
When we moved to Connecticut, I took a pine-cone wreath a friend made for me, and it now is back in Utah. My friend was very clever. Instead of wiring the pine cones, she discovered she could cut a cardboard circle, slather it with glue and stick on the pine cones to produce a lovely wreath. The first couple of years I hung it on the front door, but the southern exposure made the glue melt, so I put the wreath up in the attic and forgot about it. Then, one year, I dug it out, glued back a few pine cones and hung it in the living room. It looked so wonderful I picked up the phone and called her even though it had been such a very long time. We had a wonderful "catching up" conversation, all because of the Christmas wreath.
Everyone knows that the best gifts and the strongest memories are not about the money but about the love involved in the giving and sharing.
An old iron shovel, well worn with use, hung for years in our garage. When he was young, my husband purchased it for his father one Christmas using hard-earned paper-route money. At the time, it was a "state of the art" shovel that would roll up and move large amounts of snow. When my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law gave the shovel back to my husband. When he used it, he often recalled the pure joy he felt at giving his father such a thoughtful and useful present. Sadly, practicality ruled when we moved. It had been used so long it was almost just a handle with a piece of metal attached, but the memories remain.
The gift my husband most remembers giving his mother was wallpaper. But he didn't just give her rolls of it he and his sister worked all night frantically but as quietly as Christmas mice and actually wallpapered the walls in the kitchen. When their mother walked in Christmas morning, her kitchen was transformed, and, of course, there were tears and hugs and all those happy feelings.
In the midst of the seasonal static, if we stop for a moment and tune out the noise, a truth we can rediscover each year is that real riches can be found in the treasures nearby in the affirmation of life.
In the holiday classic, "It's a Wonderful Life," Clarence the angel has successfully earned his wings for showing George what the world would be like had George never lived. He leaves him a note that says, "Dear George, Remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence."If we pause from the hustle and bustle, we can actually believe there are angels as the season casts its yuletide enchantment. It is a time when people can come together in rare and wonderful ways, and we can believe that something good will happen soon, something exciting and important and miraculous. For where there are miracles there can be great joy, and we can be grateful for another December because we are alive.