Christmas Time is Here…

We’re on that fast train called December, hurtling along, express style, toward 2023.

It always takes me by surprise. One minute we’re in September and I’m catching my breath from the summer, settling into a routine for what feels like the first time all year, and the next minute it’s almost over.

Time presses us, doesn’t it? It heals wounds and brings growth, and it cuts short and signals death. Forty of these ever-flowing weeks brings us to the birth of a new baby while simultaneously carrying me along, ever closer to my end.

But were time and money infinite, we would find ourselves lost in a sea of priorities with no urgency to actually choose any. Instead, they are anything but infinite. We are anything but infinite, and don’t we know it, deep in our souls. And so each tick of the clock is a crossroads, a decision point: what will be the things that matters to us? (There is a Kingdom outside of Time, whose rule is infinite, and investment therein brings eternal rewards. I highly recommend, with each movement of the second hand: choose Jesus.)

*****

This past week we said goodbye to November, full of thankful hearts as we gathered the Sinclair clan for food and fun. Pilgrims and pumpkins were packed away, Diana Krall began her yearly reign from our kitchen speaker, and Christmas appeared.

We decorated, made cookies, prepared dozens of teacher/CFA volunteer gifts, watched Christmas movies, lit candles, got our tree, ironed holiday clothes, and inaugurated the season with the kids’ CFA Christmas concert.

We also got hit with a tummy bug, several days of a fever for Percival, horrible rainy weather instead of snow, had gobs of study for Greek finals, basketball practices, and had to cancel our very first holiday gathering.

Our “tree day” summed up what so much of this fall has felt like: not quite to plan, not exactly how we’ve usually done it, plenty of divide and conquer, with Ryan and I trying to keep the big picture in mind as we work with a new set of variables. And it also summed up the goodness of God I’ve been basking in: years of working very hard to build a family where love, servanthood, and right priorities shape us, and now seeing those values genuinely take root in the lives of our older children. Suddenly a day can seem to go awry and yet stay absolutely on course because we are pulling together, smiling, serving, keeping our eyes on the prize. And so, when that tree was vertical and watered, lit and decorated, and we all sat together eating rum logs, although the day had lacked “magic,” what we ended up with was even better. We had persevered together, repenting along the way as needed… and by George, we’d gotten that tree up!

And so here we are: a month to celebrate well, purposely carving out time to reflect, enjoy, beautify, and create. May we all serve and bless as we go, giving generously, and receiving the small blessings that surround us and the staggering blessing available to us all through the kindness of Christ, our Savior and Friend.

listening

It is early and yet dark.

The rooms are heavy in silence and I, the mistress, tiptoe as if intruder, hoping to pass through unnoticed, preserving the unbroken sound of nothing.

I raise light with an unspoken apology to Sleeping House, sliding dimmer slowly, barely, silently begging just enough glow to do my usual things.

Candles lit and set by the tree, Bible raised to their light so I might see the red letters waiting on page.

Still silent.

Glow of tree, flicker of flame.

And then, from deep within House, a stirring. Furnace moves air, warming this winter morning, wrapping my sleeping Babes in comfort, guarding between us and frozen chill.

That bulk of ancient metal parts, somehow it speaks poetry in the morning. I hear its low hum and swell with gratitude. I am cared for. I am covered. I am sheltered. I am warm. My soul fills with mercy of provision, gladness of thanks.

Listening, not merely hearing, and a soul catches Word spoken. Eternal wave of sound, echoing Life through the ages, if we would but still. Low hum stills my heart this morn, and in tender moment I cry silently: Oh, to hear the Word and catch it gladly, receive it readily, treasure it forever.

Christmas memories, 2020

A post of photos, so I can remember the year when three children sang like angels and siblings burst with joy over gifts exchanged and Percival matched his brothers and Ryan actually had no idea what I bought for him (!!) and the beef was a fiasco and we stayed in slow-mo for days afterward playing games and wearing nightgowns and good heavens, we all needed a solid nap.

the gift of today

I’m always so sad to see December coming to a close, although (let’s be honest) probably this little afternoon ritual of coffee and cookies will be the hardest thing to see go. The salads promised by a goal-filled January will be great, I’m sure, but nothing like these buttery morsels.

This December also meant saying goodbye to 4-year-old Cecily, and that reality gave pause to both Ryan and me on the eve of her birthday — “December nineteenth!”, always declared with a wide grin — as our eyes grew wistful and full of memory. The little years of Cecily Anne have been truly delightful years, full of belly-laughter and deep-down joy.

But when our 4-year-old disappeared that night, we found in her place an equally delightful 5 year old and the hopes of a year yet to be lived.

And so it is, really, with all of the wonderfully rich days already enjoyed. They end, we turn off the light with a deep sigh, but the sun rises and invites us to embrace yet another day, made by and planned by and inhabited by God Himself. Can I do that? Can I release, with thankfulness, the gifts of yesterday and open my hands to what He will give today?

We chatted today, amidst pots of Sopa de Albondigas and rising orange-scented sweet dough and the beef tenderloin I wanted so badly to not mess up. We talked about finishing strong, and I reminded the boys of the human wonder names Usain Bolt who, among other obvious gifting, is capable of seeing a finish line and not slowing down at all. He runs right through that marker and leaves his opponents in the dust. We talked about how everyone’s inclination is to see the end and, in relief, slow their pace. “I’ve got this,” we think to ourselves, and then slow down. Usain Bolt and Caleb remind me of each other, in their ability to finish strong, and I am challenged. I’m only 39, and already I can start to understand the temptation to begin coasting. Entanglements, weights, sorrows, or just plain old, “I’ve got this.” Enough days of packed away treasures, enough mornings of waking to a more frail body, another disappointing circumstance, and we start to slow.

So I’m looking at a month of pictures, of memories, of days with my kids right here with me. Growing, happy, innocent, with me. It’s easy to sigh and have the echo of so many kind strangers ring in my mind: “These are the best days of your life.” And I know what they mean, and I’m smart enough to understand, but tomorrow, no matter what else it may bring, is full of the promise of purposes of God, and He invites me to live it strong, live it fully, live it with hopeful expectation.

Emmanuel, God with Us — today, tomorrow, forever.

joy for a weary world

“A weary world rejoices.”

Doesn’t that sum up what you’re seeing this year? Strings of lights in mid-November, trees up a good week before usual, the population in general chomping at the bit to sing Jingle Bells and spread Christmas cheer — the feeling of “we need a little Christmas right this very minute” has never been so widely shared.

And maybe this is good for us. Maybe it is right to occasionally remember that the Light came into vast and utter darkness. Joy erupted from a place of total despair. A savior was born because we actually needed to be saved. Not helped. Saved.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn”

We have strung lights, too, and our tree beckons spontaneous morning and evening family gatherings. Favorite songs play while the girls color yet another Christmas coloring page. The fragrance of butter and sugar and nutmeg and rum fills the air. We are celebrating, but the best part is that we’re not celebrating the lights or the tree or the music and cookies. Those are the tools we use, but the object of our joy is so much less fleeting and circumstantial.

We sense hope, but it’s not just because we think a new calendar will magically usher in a better year. Fast-tracked vaccinations aren’t filling my soul with peace. Actually, there’s not a whole lot of joy, hope, or peace to be grasped — until you stop fumbling in the dark for something that doesn’t exist and start looking toward the horizon for the glorious morn promised by a Morning Star so many hundreds of years ago.

A thrill of hope, my weary soul rejoices, and more than ever, it’s not just because the sounds of the King’s College choir are magical (though they are).

We are a weary world, and if the tree and lights and Hallmark movies aren’t doing it for you this time around, may I suggest a better hope, a more lasting peace? May I remind us that the angels came to announce a Savior, and He is near, ready to save.