We need a little Christmas. Right this very minute.
I could be the poster child for “Advent Purity.” I grew up in a home where the Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve, not a day earlier – not for religious reasons, but family tradition. I started my professional church life as a Liturgy Director, and well, you don’t want to tussle with a Liturgy Director about when Christmas actually begins. I once got into a legal dispute with my Homeowner’s Association because they made me take my wreath down before Epiphany. I’ve loosened a little – our tree goes up the Sunday before Christmas, only because I always work on Christmas Eve.
Given all of that, I’m struck by how haunted I have been by something I saw on my niece’s Facebook page a few weeks back, from blogger Blythe Hunt, reflecting on the losses she’s suffered this year:
“So friends, please be patient with me. If I hang my Christmas lights a little early this year or play Christmas music before Thanksgiving, if you get a Christmas card before you’ve even decided on turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, if I start my holiday baking so early I’ll have to bake again further into Advent, please show me grace. Know that I am desperate to press into Christmas, into the promise of God with us.”
I can hardly type it without tearing up. And this was before Paris. Before Beirut and Baghdad. Before Colorado Springs and San Bernardino. When I was just carrying my usual sadness about my mother’s illness and about suffering in the world. I need a little Christmas.
So the song in my head these days is the gospel according to Auntie Mame, the Jerry Herman classic:
For I’ve …Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
I’ve been immersed in Dan Horan’s work on the Franciscan roots of Thomas Merton’s theology (The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton), and moved so deeply by Merton’s take on the Incarnation as described by Horan: “the Incarnation, God’s own descent into the world to live as a human person, was part of the plan for creation from the beginning.” Not to take away our sin. Not as payment. But inevitable, because of God’s love for all of creation. God loves us so much, the people and the birds and the trees and the stars and the creatures great and small, loves us so much that God wants to be with us, to touch us, to walk with us, to cry with us in these days of sorrow. It’s a love story as big as the universe. Well no wonder we need a little Christmas!
So let us be patient with one another. To feel our deep need and love for God in these challenging times and press into however much Christmas we need, whenever we need it.
For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a little Christmas now.
Christina Honchell is the parish administrator at All Saints Church in Pasadena.