It rains so much in the Pacific Northwest. Although our little family usually doesn’t put up any Christmas decorations until the first or second week in December, this year has been so rainy and so dark we decided to hang the outdoor lights on the day after Thanksgiving.
There are those years when “In the Bleak Midwinter” is my favorite Christmas carol, that or “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” This year the bleakness wins, and it’s not just the weather.
We’ve lost some dear saints in the congregation this year. I look out in the pews on Sunday morning and I see their spouses and their children and their friends sitting there without them, and melancholy descends. It’s their first season without this person who brought light or warmth or laughter or kindness to their life.
Then there is the bruising left over from the election season, and the uptick in hate crimes since November 8. There’s Syria, and refugees, and poverty that never, ever abates for some people. There is the reality of aging parents. On some days if feels as though Yeats was terribly prescient: the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy has been loosed upon the world. I too am slouching towards Bethlehem.
If my sweet little family’s Christmastide celebrations began on December 24 and ended on the 26th, I would be happy. But my daughter loves Christmas. It’s her favorite holiday, and it has nothing to do with Santa or presents. There’s nothing she really wants for Christmas – except to be with family, which is hard with two clergy parents.
When I ask her why she loves Christmas, this is what she says. “Everyone is so joyful, and everything is so pretty and decorated. There are so many lights, and people sing.”
I’m not sure where she picked this up as I’m usually a bit crabby during Christmas, failing miserably at being mom, spouse, and pastor all at once. She sees through that, or around it or beyond it. She sees the big picture: we celebrate Light coming into the world.
So perhaps this month, as the rains pour down and it’s hard to tell if the sun has risen yet; this month, as the news tells more terrible stories, and people tell stories of grief and fear; this month, as I once more fail at being a cheerful pastor/mom:
I will look to my daughter, so happy for this season. I will look at her with hope for the joy she will carry into this month and the years that lie ahead. I will look to her with a gratitude that goes beyond words, gratitude for her presence and her life. I will look to her so that she can show me the way, even through the bleak midwinter.
For a little child shall lead them.