"Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness and then I slept."
- From A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, which my dad recited to us every year.
Dove-bird and Ella
Christmas has come and gone and we find ourselves on the eve of a new year. I have relished this season of advent and felt so very blessed. I must admit I am hopelessly nostalgic and sappy when it comes to Christmas and I love remembering past traditions and starting our own. We went to a candlelight Christmas Eve service and I couldn't help remembering when I was little. Every Christmas Eve bundled in our Christmas dresses we would go to a huge church in Philadelphia, Tenth Presbyterian, the church where my parents met. One year particularly stands out; I was about 7 or 8. To me the church was magnificent; large stone columns loomed up to the beautifully patterned ceiling, balconies were on each side, and in the front of the church was a massive tree with a lone dove resting in its branches. From the back balcony came the triumphant sounds of horns and a choir; I thought even the angels in heaven could not sound sweeter. At the end we sang silent night and I looked up at my dad whose chin trembled in the candlelight, and I felt God's presence wrapped around me like a blanket.
I feel like a child every year as I delight in all the charms and novelties that surround the season. Ours was a cozy, peaceful Christmas. We spent most of our day at the Gast's house in Wildwood with family and friends. There was feasting and presents. In the afternoon we walked under the gray Christmas sky to see some miniature horses that live down the hill from their house. In the evening we all read portions of the birth story while our littlest ones were in constant motion trying out their new treasures.
It was in those moments of stillness and quietness though that I marveled at the incarnation. With hands on my own swollen belly I feel my unborn child squirming and kicking. So long ago my God was the very substance of these hidden movements to his own mother. "He wrapped himself in human skin for those who want to touch." What was it like for Mary so young and innocent to carry the Son of God? Did she lie awake at night unable to sleep, achy or fearful of the labor? Did she become anxious when labor started on the back of a donkey with her desperate husband unable to find a resting place? And then how did she feel when the only respite was a stable? A smelly, filthy place meant for animals, yet this is where the King of glory came to be among us. When she finally saw his tiny face all else would not have mattered. And so this is what I cling to, My God who loved enough to come in complete humility, who came with a mission to save, who was born and died and resurrected and who will come again to heal all that is broken. In the face of a world so overtaken by violence, injustice, emptiness and loneliness, the yearning for true peace is deepened. How sweet to know the one who brings that peace and to revel in it.