The driveway is still covered with a thin layer of ice. The north and shady sides of hills are covered with frozen grass, each blade encased in crystal. I drive carefully around the puddles, not sure if they’re liquid or solid, not particularly eager to find out.
I live in a world of the winter ice storm, my windows were covered with a mottled sheet of frozen water yesterday morning, like the privacy glass of a shower door. It’s melted now, and the sun is shining brightly, but there’s little promise of warmth in the light – the mercury is holding steady at nineteen degrees, up three from when I left for work six hours ago, but not exactly balmy.
In the dark, driving to work this morning, my headlights glinted off the salt crystals scattered all over the roads and I remembered that I’m back in a world of salt-covered cars, gloves, coats, shoes…I already managed to get it on my coat, must have brushed against the car last night…
It’s winter here, but winter here isn’t what I’m used to. Even this cold snap won’t last; it’s supposed to be fifty degrees and rainy on Christmas Eve.
Hanukkah has begun, and the synagogues will be alight each evening. Houses are bedecked with lights; in their yards reside Santa and reindeer, massive blow-up snowmen, and garish plastic nativity scenes. Some are simpler: a single glowing candle in each window and greens on the front door. I breathe a sigh when I see those houses; it’s the beauty of simplicity.
I’m ready to celebrate Christmas, non-traditional though it may be this year. I’ll go to the Christmas Eve service at church, and remember the time that the luminaries on Roberts Ave. caught fire and all the volunteer fire fighters ran out of the service. Then I’ll have a late dinner with good friends, family really, and hope that the rain lets up long enough to see their street decorated with the candles in paper bags.
On Christmas morning I’ll celebrate by myself, not with any self-pity, but hopefully with gratitude for the peace. It’s taken years, but I’ve learned to appreciate solitude. Then Christmas evening I’ll have dinner with friends, and I hear I’m in for quite the treat at their home.
But my Christmas won’t come until a few days later, when, surrounded by my family in a hotel in a little town somewhere a few hours from here, we sit around and open presents, one at a time, and maybe go for a swim with the little girls, and eat stew out of a Crockpot on the bathroom counter. Sure, it’s a little weird; but Christmas isn’t about where or when you celebrate. It’s about Who and with whom. My family and I have celebrated in places all over the world, with friends and family from all walks of life, but we’ve always been focused on Who we’re celebrating: a baby born in a manger, who came to show us how to have life, and to offer us a way to have it.
My non-traditional Christmas is okay by me. I’ve been listening to carols for nearly a month now, but in a way I think the season only really began for me last night. I went to a Christmas program at my friends’ church: Beautiful Day, A U2 Christmas. Sure, it was off the wall; it was as non-traditional as my Christmas is this year. But somewhere in there, listening to the words of songs by Bono and company, Christmas began – God’s pursuit of man took on human flesh, and was born in a manger.
He lived and died that we might live, both now and forevermore.
I want to feel, sunlight on my face
See that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name
He became dust that we might be redeemed from it.