Today is November 15. The temperature has been chilly, with biting winds throughout most of the week. One radio station in town has already begun playing Christmas music non-stop. All the stores are hawking Christmas decorations and perfect gifts and useless boxes of crackers and cookies that no one wants to eat.
Christmas is bittersweet. Like most children, I relished the holiday. I sang Christmas carols loudly and off-key. I baked a plethora of goodies with my grandmother, pressing the fork to make perfect cross-hatches on the cheese straws and measuring the pecans for dozens of pies. I made sure my grandmother and mother did not decorate their trees on the same days so that I could helps with both. I insisted we drive around to all the best houses to see Christmas light displays.
Christmas lost the magic for me as an adult. Again, I’m sure that’s not an uncommon occurrence. My beloved Mama Kat passed away just before Christmas three years ago; more than anything, Christmas since then has represented fleeting memories and the knowledge that life must inevitably progress without those we love. Her birthday is November 19, just a few days from now, which will then lead into Thanksgiving, her favorite holiday. This season contains far too many reminders.
It’s also the most difficult time of the year to be single. So many parties and family gatherings to attend alone. And the close of a year and the start of a new, wondering when hopes and dreams will come to fruition.
I’ve already begun ripping off the metaphorical bandages. I’ve begun planning my Christmas gift-giving. I’m listening to my favorite Christmas music on my iPod. I’m occasionally fighting back tears in home decor stores because Bing Crosby starts playing over the speakers, and boy, did my grandmother love White Christmas.
I’m also reminding myself to look for hope in unexpected places. To find glimpses of the Kingdom in a fallen world. To celebrate the knowledge that our world is full of brokenness and pain, but that our hope is in Someone greater. Christmas, after all, is the intersection of brokenness and redemption, when heaven and earth collided, when the Word was made flesh to dwell among us. I miss my grandmother while acknowledging that she and I will worship together again one day. I feel flashes of loneliness with the assurance that God is protecting my heart for a future purpose that I can’t yet comprehend. I will celebrate with the people I love, knowing that the way I love my family and friends is a reflection of a Love far greater than what I am capable of.
Maybe I’m ready for Christmas after all.