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In storage for another 11 months

sunday, december30th

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Quote Du Jour:
"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." (T.S. Eliot)

Last night was the last night I'll have for a while to attempt the impossible. And as has been the case for many years, I'll fail in that attempt.

Every year, after the gifts have been unwrapped and the most of the decorations have already returned to storage, I'll sit along in the living room with the lights off and stare at our Christmas tree. I try to figure out where the holiday went... And I try to soak up enough of the holiday spirit to carry me through another year.

There is a Family Circus single-panel cartoon Jessie cut out for me once. Little Billy was looking into the living room and made the comment, "It sure looks empty without our Christmas tree." That cartoon is sandwiched between two pages of a notebook somewhere. I really wish I could find it... Because, you know... In that particular panel, Little Billy is me.

I think there are a lot of reasons why the holidays are so important to me. Perhaps the most notable on the list is the fact that my birthday falls seven days before Christmas. I've often joked with others that it took graduating high school before I ever received gifts outside the month of December. And certainly, it's not the gifts that are important, but the celebration of those holidays that is... and the gathering of friends and family that is... and the joy and jubilation that Christmas should bring with it... Let's face it. The other 11 months pale in comparison. I think that's why its hard to see December go.

Every year I get the feeling that I've let the holidays slip through my fingers. This year, that feeling has been compounded... because this was the year of the fire.

Our advent wreath was the cause of the fire, so we didn't have that tradition to fall back on. Because the painters and the cleaning crews were in the house, our primary tree didn't go up in the living room until a few days before Christmas. In fact, this was the first year the three wasn't up for my birthday. And because of the fire, the smells of the season haven't been our live tree, or pies baking or turkeys cooking... but of flat interior paint instead.

I know. This is all petty. We were lucky. We have a house to have Christmas in and we have each other. Don't think I don't realize that... Because I do and I'm thankful for it all. It's just that I fell like December is "my month." It means more to me than to anyone else I know... and it's all but gone. The rest of you can have the other 11. I want to hold onto December just a little while longer.

One of the things I've always noticed about Christmas Eve is how truly peaceful the night seems. I've always detected an overwhelming silence and calm the night has about it... and I love to bask in it, soaking up as much of it as I can.

One thing that helps that feeling is my church's Christmas Eve candlelight service. We sing many of the classic Christmas hymns, listen to the reading of the Christmas story and conclude the service holding candles as the sanctuary darkens. The candlelight flickering off the stained glass windows and off of the faces of the congregations really is magical.

This year, I was able to experience that magic from a different perspective. My church is currently without a minister and so this year's Christmas Eve service was planned and carried out by a congregational committee. Because I was in the right place at the right time (if you want to call it that), I had the distinction of leading our service.

I enjoyed my "Linus moment" when I was able to read the verses of Luke 2 telling of the angel's visit to the shepherds. And I reveled in the chance to stand at the front of the church and watch as candle after candle was lit. The lights in the sanctuary were off and each face was illuminated by the candle that person held. It was a wonderful sight. Everyone had a glow about them... And I'm speaking literally and metaphorically here because I hope that those folks -- like me -- left a little bit different than when they came in.

copyright © 2001, Thomas Fletcher. all rights reserved.