I have written half a dozen holiday posts, and I have scrapped every one. In them, I have tried to explain why I chose not to write a gift guide this year; and, while I can offer a hundred reasons, let's just stick to the declarative "I didn't write a gift guide this year." (Click the "gift guides" category on the right of the screen if you would like to see past ones. They're long, good, and still quite current.) Meanwhile, I tried to write about plans made, new traditions forming, and, of course, the elephant in the room: celebrating the holidays for the first time as a single parent. And I just cannot get a post out about any of these things. My feelings are too personal, the sentiments too raw, and the most important reality is that, despite that elephant, I know in both my brain and in my heart that I am about to have another magical Christmas with my two superkids. It is tempting to wallow in the negatives, but hey -- stirring up handmade soap in the kitchen tonight, watching Dash wrinkle his nose as he chose scents and seeing Petunia's caution as she dripped in the coloring and checked to see if the molds had set, I suddenly smelled something in my house, and do you know what? It smelled a lot like a very Merry Christmas going on, right under my nose. (Achoo. Soap-making is not for the sneezy!)
And in that moment, I found my holiday spirit.
It started creeping up on me in church today, when I led the teens' "bagels and bibles" session and recounted a lesson that I remember from my own Sunday School days: that of how people came to know Jesus. The shepherds, told by an Angel to be unafraid, approached Bethlehem with curiosity, said one of my teens. Herod, upon hearing the news of the birth of a new King, likely felt protective, threatened, and hostile, chimed in a few others. The magi, ordered to investigate by Herod, approached with skepticism, suggested another child. Upon seeing the newborn king, born in the humblest of circumstances to the most ordinary of people, the curious shepherds and the skeptical magi left full of wonder, rejoicing and praising God. Herod never did get word of where to find the baby, for the magi never reported back on his location, aware, through divine intervention, of their boss's hostile intent. This mirrors being a Christian today: there are some who go out into the world believing in and proclaiming the good news of our faith There are those who are hostile to that message. For a practicing Christian like me, what matters is in how I respond to that challenge.
Funny, then, that, as I settled in tonight to reflect on my day, with the house full of the smell of cinnamon-sugar and fresh pine, I realized that the lesson I shared with my teens today is exactly the message of Christmas (and life, actually) that I needed to receive. I approached this holiday wondering how I will get through it, curious about how the kids will act and react to their life change amid holiday hoopla, and skeptical that I can offer something on my own that will measure up. At times, hostility threatened, and yet, I refused to make room for it in my home. We put up our tree, and Petunia hung the star. Grandma strung the lights and swept up the falling pine needles again and again and again.
And, what do you know, something amazing happened: amid my humbler circumstances, a sense of wonder and rejoicing surfaced in a most unexpected way. My heart became more full than ever, and I felt closer to my kids as well as to my faith. That is the miracle of birth: a renewed sense of faith that life goes on, no matter what. As our family of three looks toward 2013, I am full of hope that this sense of warmth, love, faith, and service that fills my heart today will take up permanent residence. It is welcome, and I am ready.
Wishing you and yours a most blessed holiday season, a sense of fulfillment as this year ends, and your own renewal, should you seek it, in the next one.