For the first time ever, I am not home for Christmas. The airlines outpriced me on flights from and to the uttermost ends of the Lower 48, so – with parental blessing – I decided to stay put for the holiday. I confess that I cried when I realized I’d be spending Christmas alone, while my parents, siblings, and troupe of nieces and nephews made merry without me half a continent away. But I’ve come to believe that staying put by yourself can make for a special holiday.
Think about it. Centuries of Christmas traditions have so decorated the holiday that it’s hard to see where it all began. Most of us know (at least in our heads) that Christmas isn’t about all the trappings, but it takes hard work to remember this when we’re up to our elbows in Christmas cookies and gift wrap, when days are devoted to wintery travel and a ensemble of holiday gatherings. Many of us manage to get to a Christmas Eve service – but it’s usually one of a dozen things we squeeze on the holiday calendar.
My Christmas celebration this year basically is that Christmas Eve service, preceded by a simple soup supper with a new friend. Granted, I bought and distributed gifts earlier this year, did my share of holiday baking, and even Skyped in to the Wisconsin family Christmas this afternoon. But really, it’s a bare-bones kind of Christmas here in Bellingham. The highlight of my holiday will be sitting with a little community of believers in flickering candlelight and remembering what happened so many years ago at another bare-bones Christmas. Sure, there was an angelic choir on the hillside and an entourage of astrologers en route, but Christmas at ground zero involved a pair of newlyweds who, technically speaking, weren’t home for the holiday either. It involved the birth of a baby, an undecorated event if ever there was one. That first Christmas was all about the little one in the manger – the little Immanuel, “God with us.”
Maybe I’ll never have another Christmas like this one. But if I do, I will see it for the blessing it is.