Monday, December 25, 2006


Stumbling into Christmas

It was a decidedly borderline season. The bronchitis that I complained about a couple of weeks back has bedded down in my chest and left me gasping at the end of every work day. I came to moments of understanding with myself about what I would and would not be able to get done before Christmas Day. When Ellen and I discussed getting The Tree, I begged off, laughingly noting that if we went out and bought it, we would have to decorate it.

We finally did decorate the tree in a burst of energy while listening to A Prairie Home Companion. Yesterday I had a couple of gifts to deliver, and out we went for a drive.

This isn't a white Christmas, somewhat unusual for Vermont, but the light was lovely as we drove through a succession of mountain valleys. The town hall of Strafford seemed to pull all the late light to it in its place on the green. We drove up the first branch of the White River to the village of Chelsea, then headed back along a stream-bordered road. The birches stood tall and white on the mountains like witnesses, like silent ancestors. I thought of the aboriginal artists of Australia and wondered if those trees wouldn't have spoken to them, too.

Darkness drifted slowly downward in the form of deepening blue, and I was grateful for the strings of lights that illumined lonely farmhouses along the way. They warmed the landscape somehow, and as the last bit of color eased from the sky I began to feel what I'd been unable to feel before: the impulse that the birth of a child is infinite cause for hope.

We came home to a performance of Handel's Messiah on NPR. I have been known to sit impatiently through the recitatives and arias, awaiting the grand release of the Hallelujah Chorus, but this night I was present for the whole performance. I was moved as I hadn't been before:

He was despised, despised and rejected, rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting. Surely, surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...

The clouds had left the sky, revealing the bright bowl of the heavens, by the time I gave Maddie-dog her last walk of the night. My neighbor Marilyn's fir trees once again wore their shimmering mantles of white lights. A hush suffused the neighborhood.

There it was again: the blessing of Christmas. I entered in.

THIS is a joyful and wonderful description of 'the blessing of Christmas' and I salute you. I feel the same way about the Messiah and other pieces of 'God music'.
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