Again at Christmas did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess’d the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve.
The yule-log sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.
I found these verses of poetry again Christmas Eve in a book I return to from time to time.
Having risen early, I turned on the tree lights, took my place in the corner chair and allowed for silence to blossom in the space. All was calm, all was bright. Beautiful. From within the tree, small constellations of brilliance reflected off ornaments and cast themselves onto the walls and ceiling. The moon was nearly full outside of the window. On Christmas Day, it would be full. The time was not complete — not yet.
I knew my Christmas would not be complete either. I have been missing Andrew, of course. This is our 6th Christmas without him. I don’t want to take anything away from the beauty around me, or the joy that others feel, or the power of Love to overcome unexpectedly and in ways like nothing else can (which is what Christmas means to me), but I would be less than genuine if I did not also acknowledge that something is missing.
And since this isn’t going to go away, it helps to simply pause sometimes and allow for the presence of absence to have its say. At least it’s that way for me — and I suspect for others whom I know also shoulder a loss in their lives.
Christmas Eve services can be a beautiful experience. In many traditions, they feature the element of Communion. But there is another form of communion that happens in silence, often below the surface and in out of the way places. A moment of mutual understanding between two individuals who through a hug, a nod, a silent gesture, a look in the eyes, or a soft word, acknowledge the quiet sense of something lost. We are not alone.
I don’t think that this communion is a different communion than the one that exists in receiving the bread and sharing of the cup. Rather, it is an extension of the same one. In the service, the assembled, having sung “O come, all ye faithful,” and who are actually only more or less faithful (I’m usually somewhere inbetween), are told to keep this tradition going until the Lord comes. In other words, the time is not complete — not yet.
Christmas is like that. It celebrates less the resolution as it does the beginning. The introduction of hope into hopelessness. The arrival of light, yes, but to be more accurate, it is about light shining in darkness.
Christmas Day in the morning
On Christmas Day in the morning, I took this picture of the now full moon from the staircase window. Then, Maureen, Clara and I traveled what felt like all day and the better part of the continent so that we could gather with family in California.
Good to be together.
There was laughter, good food, hugs, and kisses. We prayed with gratitude and remembered others who were not with us. Gifts were exchanged and there was the spontaneous impetus of what could be a delightful new tradition — after the opening of each gift, a round of polite and encouraging applause followed — affirming at once the giver, the receiver, and the whole act of giving. It seemed like a good idea as even the oddball gifts were graciously acknowledged.
Christmas Day in the evening
Later, I stepped outside to observe the same full moon shining even unto Bakersfield, where Christmas has come too. In a way, I felt that it was the presence of Andrew with me all day.
I acknowledged my loss, felt the communion of it with others, and was able to move forward.
At Christmas, we celebrate the gift of Love in our midst — most visibly seen in the face of Jesus. Love doesn’t take away our loss or replace it. But it does accompany us in acknowledging it. True love knows our loss.
The annual broadcast of the Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge, heard worldwide, begins each year with the singing of these words:
For He is our childhood pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
— C.F. ALEXANDER
Merry Christmas. Let us move forward with hope, looking for the day when things are complete and we no longer have to say not yet because the time will be now. Until then, we are accompanied by One who knows our sadness AND our gladness.