My very favorite Christmas tree ornament is a flat ceramic Santa, given to me when I was very small, and made by a friend of my grandmother’s. For close to 40 years, this Santa has hung on a Christmas tree in my home, wherever that home has been.
Sacred symbol he may not be, but my Santa ornament reminds me of the very heart of the Christmas story as my faith tells it: that I am/we are loved.
I’ve never hung him without this sense of big picture, this realization that what is right now is not what has always been or what will one day be. He’s been with me lots of places, this little Santa, and he’s with me still.
December has long been my heart’s home. I have no rational explanation for this, just a calm knowing that in winter’s soft grey skies and the stark lines of bare tree branches and the clearness of a full moon on a December night–there’s something real in all that, something that reminds me that no matter how cold or dark it might be, there is, beneath it all, and so always somewhere in me, too, life…pulsing, waiting.
(I speak from a history of privilege–I know this–from happy Christmas memories and December days rooted in tradition and love. This is not so for all people, and I grieve that.)
I know, too, that this December, my heart’s finding it harder to settle in, to breathe in deep the goodness lying in these days and so find strength. There are a multitude of reasons for this, and the reasons don’t matter so much as what gets experienced and learned in the midst of their wreaking havoc on my beloved December.
What I’m learning is this:
- that the constants in life matter most, even if represented in a silly ceramic Santa
- that the Nativity story is not a perfect one–it is, in fact, wrought with fear and heartache and uncertainty
- that despite this fear and heartache and uncertainty, things I am knowing–for myself and so many I care about–in a new way this December, love still comes…somehow
- that this is not the first time the world seems to have tilted into chaos–that Jesus was born into terror and war and poverty and political posturing, too…that biblical Bethlehem and modern day global life have a lot in common
- that my daughter’s speaking, “hope, peace, love, joy…that’s the order of the Sundays, mama,” is blessed balm for a grateful and tender heart–because it means that despite her longing for an American Girl Look-A-Like doll from Santa, she knows what really matters
Forgive me if my icon for all things holy this most precious of Decembers (because it is–even if I’m not quite understanding that yet) is a Santa ornament, but I live and move and having being in a story of finding the sacred in that which is ordinary.
In the ordinary made extraordinary, by the grace of which the angels sang, and the shepherds stood in awe, and in which Mary trusted to see her through.