This has been the most low-key build-up to Christmas I've had in years. For one thing, I'm not responsible for the annual Christmas repast which is a first in 15 years. I'm not going to know what to do with myself Christmas Day! Usually, I come back from Mass in a bust to get a special roast in the oven and other things prepared that we wouldn't normally eat on any ordinary day. This year, my newly married sister asked to do the honors. I'm responsible for bringing dessert, and I am ashamed to admit to those of you who have been baking furiously that I visited an excellent German bakery and let them do the honors.
This is the first time in many years that I'm working 5 days a week. Even though I've had to work full-time for years, I always worked 10 or 12 hours shifts. Working 50 hours a week with a 90 minute daily commute simply hasn't left me time to bake or shop til I drop. So things are going to be a bit subdued. The one thing that hasn't been subdued is my prayer life, and that's the preparation most important to me.
I live in an area where people go way overboard at Christmas. The Griswolds have nothing on some of my neighbors. The lights are amazing. As a child, I looked with great anticipation to see these lights and once the magic of being a "believer" came to an end, the lights were never that enchanting again. Until tonight, as I drove home from Adoration, and I chose to see the lights in a different way. Like the little town of Moravia that lines the streets and paths with candle-lit sacks on Christmas Eve, the twinkling lights aren't necessarily there to point out someone's house to Santa. I choose now to see them lit in anticipation of the coming of the Christ Child.
Some people were losing their minds over the winter Solstice this past week. I'm convinced the only reason they care is because they're so anti-Christian they'll look for any reason to minimize the blessed miracle of Christmas. However, at work, it was a decidedly different story. Every day the chapel underwent some slight change as we got closer to the end of Advent. Finally, the manger made its appearance today, with Mary and Joseph kneeling beside an empty manger, kept company by two sleeping donkeys. Next week when the Babe is present, I will have to take a photo of this Nativity scene. I have never seen a more beautiful version of the Holy Parents and I have to believe the pieces probably belong to the nuns and they are generous enough to share them.
Today, there was such excitement in the atmosphere that I almost felt like a child back at school. I believe it's because for the first time in my career as a nurse I'm working in a place where there is no shame or offense associated with something as beautiful as a Nativity scene. We wrapped up work in my departments a little early and everyone was able to leave by 3.
When I got home, I decided to try to pick up the last few gifts and as I walked among the other shoppers, many of them puffing cigarettes while attached to cell phones, I thought of how much I don't belong to the world, to the point where it's painful to go shopping. I also realized that I hadn't gotten my husband a single thing, nor had I gotten any candy for the stockings. I thought of Louis Martin, remarking with some satisfaction about how it would be the last year to fill a shoe with surprises for Therese on Christmas Eve, and the hurt it caused her. But it also brought about her conversion, so here's hoping that our subdued, lower-key Christmas brings my family closer to Him in Whose Name we celebrate.