I've been making a lot of lists lately. That's what we Virginias do this time of year, now that we have the "yes," answer to the Santa Claus question all cleared up. Here goes another list. At the top of the page I write:
RIDICULOUS NOTIONS THAT WILL NEVER COME TRUE
This could be a list of many things. Among them:
1. My Christmas wish list or
2. My New Year's Resolutions
Making the most of the holiday season for some of us includes pursuing that fleeting corner of stillness and hoping that just the silent stars go by. But it's never just the silent stars that go by is it?
During the season, add to your regular jobs all the new lists. There are lists of lists: decorations to put up indoors and out. Ugh, replacement lights, weren't these lights new just last year? Gifts to be bought, wrapped and given. Favorite foods to buy and cook. Travel arrangements, visits to coordinate. House to clean. Where will family meet? My house? All at once? Deeper layers of house to clean, and re-clean.
Where is the joy? Oh, the check engine light is on in the car. There it is. It's suddenly flashing now. It's serious. "Joy to the world, all the boys and girls," as one sits within the aromatherapy of oil and fumes waiting for the tidings of great joy: what needs to be replaced on the car. It's a long list that is single spaced with a staple on the printout, looking rather like "the decree that went out from Caesar Augustus that everyone should be counted and taxed." Wait, no, that's coming up later. Let's stick to Christmas joys for now.
This year also brought the joy of being numb with nose biting cold right during those key shopping days before Christmas along with some midnight snow shoveling. If you're one to Christmas shop in hands on, real type stores and not exclusively online, the cold may have added to your sturdy Midwestern character, or shrunk your inner Grinch's heart even smaller. It hasn't been that cold since walking to grade school in an itchy wool coat covering a thin cotton dress and knee socks. Maybe it has been that cold since then. I can't remember since my brain went numb from the recent cold temps.
There is important work to be done on all levels. Traditions to build in one's family, that you hope are more lovely than the annual family meltdowns. Memories to make, photos to take. Cards to send. Always another pile of laundry. Special concerts and worship to attend.
If you're the reflecting sort, this may be your most difficult season of all. It's the pace of everything that's so rough. The only reflecting you can manage is a bleary image of yourself in a mirror needing Windex. One must fight for those quiet moments, steal them even.
A beautiful verse of Scripture will renew one's mind, that's where the rest is. Rest in it. In the beginning was the Word . . . The angels said it too: "Peace on earth, good will to men on whom his favor rests." The peace they promised was deep and real, from Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Not the Pax Romana, so proudly enforced by the physical might of the Roman Empire at that time. "You people will be peaceful or the sword will strike you," is not a peace that gives one's soul the assurance it needs to sleep in heavenly peace.
So busy, so tired, yet blessed if you still feel enough to know your heart outgrew the Grinch's when you held the candle high at the Christmas Eve service with your daughter smiling on one side and your husband recovering from recent surgery, yet standing tall on the other. Prayers have been answered and the Lord has "Risen with healing in his wings." We are blessed.
In some cultures, the home is swept, and spotlessly cleaned and even painted inside and out between Christmas and New Year's. Maybe you added that to your list this year.
You may want to sit in a moment, hold onto a memory, breathe in just being together with a family member for the first time, or possibly the last time on earth. “Be near me Lord Jesus I ask you to stay.” Read a story to your family. Play a game. Fit together a jigsaw puzzle. Sit together. Laugh a lot.
By now, you have Christmas and New Year's celebrations perfectly figured out. Know just the right thing to do to make it extra meaningful, right?
Add that to the list of RIDICULOUS NOTIONS THAT WILL NEVER COME TRUE.
Mary Lou Bayly (Joe Bayly's wife) put life in perfect perspective when she said, "You are not God. God is God." That's the truth that guides us gently into the new year. And it's time for a true silent night, and a new year that is in God's hands.