The Dayspring hath dawned on Christmas morn. Yet...something about the darkness and the aching longing of Advent feels much more comfortable to me than the rejoicing of Christmastide. I am far more at home in the shadowy dusk and predawn, because that is where I have lived all of my life. I know my Guide, but I have yet to experience full redemption—that "dawn of redeeming grace" the Christmas carols tell us is coming. I struggle to be truly excited about Christmas Day and Easter morning because I understand Advent and Lent, but I do not fully comprehend celebration, not yet.
Sadness I know. Regret I am familiar with. Frustration and agony over the Fall I deal with often. I am faced with darkness around every corner, tinging life events, colouring my own heart...But I do not know, cannot bear, the illumination of full redemption, the face of the I AM Himself.
The truth is, Christmas Day always feels like a letdown to me. It rushes by in a whirl, no matter how many times we start the day off with those beautiful, savoury passages from Isaiah, Luke, and Matthew. I want to be slow and quiet. To sit with the people imprisoned in darkness and watch dawn's light lick the edge of the sky. I want to magnify the Lord with Mary, to know with Simeon that a Light from on high hath visited those in darkness. I want to sit in a cosy chair with a cup of tea, all curled up, waiting for day to come—not sleeping late because I was wrapping gifts until the wee sma's. I want to watch snowcapped peaks turn violet and rosy in the morning light.
I want some elusive ideal Christmas. But what I want doesn't matter—what matters is what I've been given and how I steward that. To simply roll with soupy stuffing and lukewarm turkey. To not expect a stunning revelation when conversing with my extended family, or even my immediate kin, over the holidays. What I've been handed is prayer time with dear friends that replaces candlelight service this time. It is a crisp bill, unexpected, from a family member. It is a small arm squeezing my neck hard and a little voice saying, "You're my best!"—with a grin that wrinkles the little girl's nose and squinches her eyes. It is the genuine interest in the nine-year-old's voice as he shows me his lava lamp. It is singing songs and re-writing poems...and laughing hard when you slip up.
Sometimes it feels like I've missed the baby in the manger in the late night wrapping and all those imperfect, cacophonous moments strung together. It feels rushed. . . But then, labour is not quiet, calm, and perfect. It is not slow and steady, like a sunrise. Still, Mary treasured up these things in her heart. The fact is, labour ebbs and flows, it pushes hard, it screams in the night. It is a bloody, messy cacophony. It feels like forever in the waiting, in the pain. Then it is a blur and a rush, white hot heat, a lot of breathing hard. Then comes the squawk of the baby. Then comes seeing his eyelashes and his perfect little fingernails. Oh, the pain is still there, but the endorphins rush in and fill the new mother with an awe and wonder that drives the pain to the periphery. She has thoughts and eyes only for her baby.
I don't need whatever I've dreamed up as perfect and slow Christmas Days. Maybe I'll get to try that at some point...but I think I would miss the bustle of the wrapping, the cooking frenzy, singing Christmas music loudly while we all do our part to get ready for guests. I often want to savour Christmas Day—but what I want doesn't matter. What God gives is what matters. He gives Himself. He gives us family and friends. He gives us good gifts and we take them for granted—whether it is time with family or our health, time off or a travel fund to raid when the weather goes awry. Whether it is His Spirit whispering to us in the midst of the hubbub, "The Dayspring from on high has visited the sons of men" or an arm 'round our neck and a tiny voice saying, "You're my best!" Either way, He gives us what we need. It is our foretaste of redemption, preparing room in our hearts to know the Fullness of Joy.