I arrived home yesterday to a beautifully decorated house. My mother enjoys having her house decorated for each season, so there are decorations up in every room in the house. The trees are decked out in all possible ways, and the house feels like Christmas.
Since I began living away from home this is the latest that I have ever arrived home on break. It seems that Christmas has come much sooner, even though I had put up a tree in my apartment at school. Even though it took longer for me to get home than usual, I still am ready for the season, for the day, for tonight.
Tonight is Christmas eve.
It is my favorite time of the year. This is my favorite day of the year. In my living memory, I have had only two days which were not normative, the day of the tornado, and the day I spent in Paris with my sister. Unfailingly, I spend Christmas Eve with family. Even the year I was in Kenya, I was able to come home to celebrate with my loved ones.
I love Christmas Eve because (I don’t work in retail, and my prayers go out to all who are chained today) it is the day of anticipation. I am awaiting what will happen the next day. After coming through the busy time and the time of preparation during Advent, we have been building up to the celebration of Christ’s birth.
The service which we have for Christmas Eve has changed over the years, but one tradition which our family has continued to practice is to lead Silent Night during the final lighting of the candles at the end of the service. As we sing to dad’s guitar we watch the sanctuary fill with the gradual light of the individual candles that then light up each face as we continue to sing the verses of the Hymn. For the longest time, it was my favorite song. As we watched the light fill the room, and then watched the room dim again with the meditative emptying of the sanctuary, the light was calm and beautiful.
As a child this was my favorite, almost even more than Christmas, because of the possibilities. The excitement that is part of the season comes to fullness, and the moment before we fulfill it is a time when we are ready to be the most loving, and the most forgiving. In our family, at least. As I continue to mature, I have realized that half of the fun of most things for me is the anticipation and expectation in the celebration of any given event. It is not that it has to be exactly how I planned it, but it is that I am looking forward to it, and looking forward to a surprise. Generally, it is a good surprise.
So, God, let me be surprised to see how you have been working, and let me see the work you want me to do, so I can anticipate a fuller future in you.
Grace and Peace to you this Christmas.