I sit here at the breakfast counter, the granite cold, hot tea hot, cat curled up next to me, and gray ice outside for as far as I can see. Brandon swirled in from his Northwest Odyssey with friends at midnight. He is sound asleep, and Jill is preparing to do battle wih WarMart.
I can’t work in the field, have no other crashing deadlines, and so I am awaiting Christmas. I put it off this year, but here I am awaiting Christmas. I practiced this so much through the years. I thought I would bust as a boy for Santa Claus, while trying to remember Jesus as the Reason for the Season. I don’t think I got high marks in that effort. But as a child, I was also a Baptist. I know, you just let my IQ dip twenty points.
Baptists were / are strange about Christmas. The preacher thundered that we should not worship at Sears and preached salvation sermons all through December until the last week. Then we exploded a cornucopia of Christmas cantatas, music, orchestra, bells and pageants in the last week. It was as if, even when ignored, Christmas exploded at church every year.
Grew to find the rest of Christendom celebrating something called Advent. Boys and girls had Advent calendars, so my sons did. Families had advent wreaths, so we did. Churches celebrated by hanging the Green(s) and I always felt sorry for the Greens, but we celebrated — waiting. We celebrated expectation. We learned to embrace the building, pent-up hope for Light, for Salvation, for One to make a right world and us righteous.
Grew up to weep because loved ones slip away just in time for Christmas. Sons, daughers and friends die in hospital beds, on battlefields we can’t easily pronounce, or at parties and in cars. People lose homes, health, and hope — while practicing expectancy.
Which made me revisit Advent. Made me revisit celebrating expectation: such a powerful narcotic. Made me watch my spouse wonder if she could imagine and hope for something too wonderful for Heaven’s actuality.
So sitting here and expecting my family to gather, talk, eat, build fires, tell stories, and play games, and enjoy the Grandest of grandbabies (fill in your own names here) I realize that this is my favorite time of Christmas. The waiting. I cherish the expectation because all Christmases have had that slight tinge — just as the wrapping paper settles in the flurry of opening and you stare at another pair of socks or tie that begs to be exchanged — that down here, Christmases never quite fill the billing. Never were intended to do so. Nothing can quite fulfill the expectation here.
Only in Heaven can a yearning, can a hope so great due to our dire need be met or exceeded. And just there, right at that point lies the ache. Beyond all the marketers’ empty promises that reduces us to consumers, can a Place, a Person exist who makes our needs and hopes and brokenness vanish without leaving the salty tracks on our cheeks? Did He really visit us?
We have practiced being let down for so long, invested so much in the practice, will we even know how to respond when not let down? I can’t wait to know.
In memory of Anastasia, Thomas Kincaid, Tom Johnson, Vincent, and Greg.