It’s almost Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. We’ve been taught that Advent is a time of patient waiting and expectation, a time to reflect and plan for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Unfortunately, the closer we get to Christmas, the more frantic we seem to become.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed this time of year. I know I experience it, even though I am not doing much Christmas shopping, participating in parties and events, or contributing to outreach programs or children’s activities. The house isn’t going to clean itself, especially when three cats are busily shedding fur faster than I can vacuum it up. The tree isn’t going to redecorate itself when the self-same cats knock off ornaments oh-so-innocently. I won’t even think about the dishes that seem to dirty themselves if I turn my back for a minute. Bills still have to be paid, appointments I have to keep, and early nightfall, making the days seem shorter and shorter. It’s all part of this time of year, but sometimes it gets to be a bit too much.
I was sitting in my rocker the other night, trying to knit a scarf that should become a present but finding myself making mistake after mistake due to inattention. Trying to write didn’t seem to be any more successful, and even attempting to comprehend the latest book I was reading didn’t work. Sitting and thinking encouraged the hamster wheel of my mind to spin nearly out of control, to the point where I was becoming less and less functional. Then it happened.
There was a commercial on TV that had a darling little boy walking down the aisle of an airplane, giving fist bumps to guys sitting on the aisle. As adorable as that was, it was the music they were playing that got to me. I heard a jazz pianist play “Linus and Lucy” from the Charlie Brown TV specials from years ago and felt my shoulders drop in relaxation, the hamster-wheel slow down, and a smile come to my face. It made me feel like a kid again in a time where things weren’t so tense and scary, where I felt safe and happy, and where I could open the daily paper and find the Peanuts comic strip.
It felt like a good time to be alive, to remember what it was like not to have to worry about finances or the state of the world, and to look forward with joy to Christmas. It was fun rehearsing for the Christmas music in school and church. Mama would let me help make the cookies and cakes that made the house smell good (and be shared with my class at school and Sunday school, and friends and family over the holidays). I would flip through the vast Sears catalog, trying to choose what I would most like to see under the tree on Christmas morning. It was a slower, more relaxed time, or so it seemed. It probably didn’t feel that way to Mama.
Still, I have been hearing that jazzy little tune in my head all day. I especially remember it in the context of the Christmas special where Charlie Brown found a very skimpy little tree and put a Christmas ball on it that almost bent it in half. Linus recited the Christmas story from Luke 2, and the tune made them happy enough to dance around. Even the little tree seemed to perk up.
I love Christmas. I love the carols and Messiah. I love the colored lights and the smells of evergreens from the trees and wreaths. It used to seem that people were a little kinder to each other during this season, and maybe there are still times and places where that happens, or I hope it does. It was such a beautiful part of the waiting. Smiling at strangers came easily, and people were happy to be greeted, whether it was “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
Christmas can be a tough time for lots of people, me included. Each year seems to bring one more empty place around the tree or the dinner table. Anniversaries of tragic events threaten to sabotage the happiness I feel it is my right during this time of year. That’s when I need that jazzy little Charlie Brown theme. It makes the circle seem complete, even if physically there are still gaps.
Here’s a thought. If things seem to be getting to be too much, I’ll find A Charlie Brown Christmas on YouTube or cable or maybe on DVD. It doesn’t take very long to watch, but I will let myself watch it as a child would, with innocence and enjoyment. I will remember when life was simpler and kinder, a time when even a bare little tree could be made beautiful. If Christmas has painful memories, I will acknowledge them and then try to think of ways to make new memories that can be part of the present and the future, not the past. I can even use a little tune to lighten my heart and lift my spirits.
Waiting and reflecting just might be a bit easier if there’s a little jazz playing in my mind.
Two Sundays until Christmas. Enjoy them!
Image: Charlie Brown Tree, by Frankieleon, 2010. Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. Her domestic fur-kids, Dominic, Gandhi, and Phoebe, keep her company and often quite amused.