Silent Night or Jingle Bells?

Image thanks to Madison Kaminsky on Unsplash

This year, I debated whether I should decorate. Should we go through all the effort–arthritic knees and sore backs effort–to haul our Christmas decorations down from the attic and put them up? The only people I knew for sure who’d see them were my husband and me, and my mother on Christmas day.

But even if it’s only us, I decided it is worth it. And even if someday it’s only me (I have had many Christmases in the past when it was only me), I hope I’ll still want to decorate. Why? It brings me pleasure. Even if nobody else sees it.

So … I decorated.

Just last week, my hectic semester ended. I noticed our December calendar was wide open. And that seemed okay. We’d have unhurried time to be still and quiet, to reflect on this most holy season.

Then I remembered. One of the Christmas traditions Steve and I established when we first got married was to invite at least one lonely person over during the holiday season to encourage them. We hurried to make plans for two meals with people who are alone. Immediately, I felt encouraged; I felt less alone.

Our calendar quickly filled up with a flurry of other fun things: a Romanian Christmas concert I never want to miss, a community theater production of A Christmas Carol, a winter jazz concert, and others. Now my calendar has some sort of Christmas activity marked for every day between now and December 25th.

Where did my quiet Christmas season go?

I don’t remember it being this full in past years. Are we all in hyperdrive after two years of pandemic?

What a contrast from my early Christmases in Romania, the first ones people could celebrate freely, without worry. The city was dark. It bore the scars of decades of oppression. Few Christmas decorations; no streetlights even; scarcity of gifts. Depressing.

Then the week of Christmas would arrive and the gloom would lift. Every evening, it seemed the whole city came together to trudge along ancient streets, headed to church, a place long denied. My church was hidden between tall, concrete buildings. Inside, people packed the wooden benches, spilling out to stand in the aisles or along the walls. A cappella Christmas carols, the story read from Luke, white candles shared from one. Nothing more.

With a lightness in our hearts, we walked home in the soft, silent snowfall. The bleak, barren city had been transformed into something of deep reverence. O holy night.

Image thanks to David Monje

Now I miss that simplicity. I think.

Back in Eastern Europe, I remember missing the excitement of Christmas as I knew it—filled with family and events and friends. Filled with things designed to add to Christmas joy.

Maybe the place to land falls somewhere in between a silent night and noisy jingle bells.

Tonight, I sit in the dark, take off my glasses, and look at our Christmas tree lights all blurry—one of my favorite things to do. I’m reminded of the Light that came to shine in the darkness. Nothing else matters. It all melts away. My worries and endless things to do. Poof! Gone.

The Light has come.

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

Isaiah 9:2 (NASB)

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