Christmas Day. My eyes are like twin harvest moons of bloodshot fatigue. There’s a roller derby taking place in my head. My church music ministry gig ramps up something fierce this time of year leaving me satisfied and happy, but a shivering hump of quasi-humanity. The solution? I sent my wife, Rae, out to find anything resembling coffee, if only for a most yummy and effective remedy for my pounding head. God bless her!
A rather poorly decorated poor excuse for a Christmas tree tries unsuccessfully to stand guard over the precious few gifts tucked under her skirt. A single strand of multicolor lights graces her awkward presence in our living room. Perhaps fewer than a dozen ornaments hang suspended, lifelessly, from these poor, little green arms – flimsy and weak.
I speak of symbols, those tried and true geiger counters of the meaning and truth they represent. Many, many thoughtful souls have sought to unravel the ontological mysteries so delightfully pictured by this meager scene before me. As such, of that at least, I must forego.
For me, Christmas this year is a bittersweet remembrance. Every dangling bauble, twinkly light, fireplace pop and suspended sock boasting itself on our mantelpiece seems to me nothing more than sad reminiscences of loved ones gone before us; of friendship, once robust and real, now ruined; of bad things said and good things left unsaid.
Anyone who knows me knows all too well my utter loathing of all things Thomas Kincaid (sorry for the random, awkward segue). Oh, make no mistake, his practical gift at the canvas is indisputable. It’s of the vision, or lack thereof, to which I take issue. This “art” represents the shallowest of wishful thinking, whimsical, Pollyanna non-reality. It is resurrection without a crucifixion. It sets out to illustrate a fantasy world where evil has never existed; a place we all long for but which must be arrived at through God’s channel of self-forgetful love that dies an ignoble death to prove that love.
Back in my living room, my wife and I are writing in different parts of the house. I squeeze out these wandering thoughts while she continues editing her novel. Our eldest son spent the night at the home of dear friends one state away while our other son snores peacefully in his room. We don’t expect his angelic, trumpeted emergence anytime soon.
Every year that passes heaven claims more of those we love. Both of my wife’s parents are gone. My father died in 1985. Those whom we have called friend are strewn about the globe in a flower arrangement of well-memoried laughter and familiar faces. It aches.
This Christmas, all of the regular trappings have escaped me. Instead, it stands as glowing reminder of three things. Life is not as Thomas Kincaid or Barney would have us believe. If this little evergreen means anything it illustrates that our hope springs eternal and that life stubbornly wins out over death. Second, the imperfections which pervade our not-so-Christmasy living room are our own. In the heavenlies, whatever that means, all manner of thing shall be well. Sorrow and sighing trade places with gladness and rejoicing.
Finally, in the words of songwriter Ron Sexsmith, “maybe this Christmas will mean something more; maybe this year, love will appear deeper than ever before. And maybe forgiveness will ask us to call someone we love, someone we’ve lost for reasons we can’t quite recall. Maybe this Christmas.”
Indeed…maybe this Christmas.