by Lexiann Grant
Passing the Christmas tree which is decorated only half-way up, I pause to re-hang ornaments scattered on the floor, then tuck the waterproof barrier back under the skirt. The cats have been playing in their holiday playground. Again.
Each trip by the tree I do this restoration. It’s an endeavor of appreciation, a lavishing of attention on a short-season, transitory item.
This temporary fixture makes the house smell good and it’s shimmery lights make our household feel relaxed, during a time when true stress-free pleasure is in short supply. Of course the cats are happy regardless. The tree is as good as a field of catnip.
Ornaments aren’t the only thing that need returned to where they were placed when the decorating began before Thanksgiving. We needed something happy on which to focus our thoughts when we were kept apart from distant family.
The figurines in the creche scatter nightly, hopefully not prowling the house while we sleep. But if they do, then the cats must catch them each time and roll them around a bit to remind the wandering statuettes who is prey and who predator. Always in the manger scene they however are found on their sides or folded into the tree skirt…which once more needs straightened.
These nocturnal forays keep me busy trying to preserve order. I don’t know why I bother. The needles fall, the ornaments are removed and the figurines run rampant, a little worse for the wear from the cats’ maneuvering.
And much like our world and pandemic lives, no semblance of normal, routine, or in-the-proper-place is possible to maintain. At best we ignore and go on, at worst we lose, do without, suffer, stress and grieve.
As I ponder these times – the state of not only my life, but the lives of friends and family, for whose presence I hunger – my thoughts turn to Christmas, at first wondering how it will not be full of anxiety and tears. But following these thoughts down a jumbled course, I also wonder how much the first Christmas was like this one, maybe worse?
Seriously, how bad was it for Mary and Joseph? Somewhat outcasts, they traveled by order under penalty of imprisonment or death if they disobeyed, tired, uncomfortable, spending money they probably couldn’t afford. Stressed. Worried. Uncertain of what that night and all their tomorrows might hold, how the world would react to prophetic events unknown as yet. The weight of the world bearing down on them, compressed into a short span of days.
Not one of us knows what, literally, our futures hold. Illness? Loss of income? Death of a loved one? Nothing is stable, no guarantees, not even that we’ll have enough food or find toilet paper in the stores. From this perspective each moment becomes precious, as valuable as snagging a can of disinfectant spray. (Now that really makes me smile!)
With gloom threatening to engulf many of us as the world we knew disappears, our best hope may be to walk through this season with a similar mind and heart as that family who preceded us into an ominous world destined for colossal change.
Our time here, even pre-pandemic, is difficult, painful, too short and too long, with glimpses of joy in between. This Christmas has the possibility of reminding us what life and effort, and the birth of a Savior showing us a better way was meant to be. God, the Divine, the Holy, the Life of All Things is all around us, with us, within this time — within us — if we search. We are blessed with this Presence not only in rare joys, but also in this global pandemic with its chain of disastrous results.
Just for a second, look at the battered tree, put it back together. Be grateful for the mess, the pets, the smaller family, this moment of time, and all we have and don’t have. Get up tomorrow and do it again, then again. And Christmas — and our lives — will be restored.
Merry Christmas and may the blessings of restoration be yours.
Lexiann Grant is a retired writer & author, a former chalicer and layreader, but still an Episcopalian who enjoys encountering God in the mountain backcountry.