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Christmas Eve, 2016

Best thing we ever did, tossing the tree this year and decorating the living room instead. Over every doorpost and lintel, all along the mantel, the piano, and the bookcase, clear lights wrapped in holly garlands gleam and glow, giving the whole room a rather Narnian look. You almost expect Mr. Tumnus to come clopping in from the kitchen. And look! Is that a lion print on the rug? :-)

To my enormous surprise, The Mister quite enjoyed helping me decorate! Past years, his contribution was bringing up the boxes from the basement and leaving me to go to it, which used to delight me, but last year I had to admit it was getting to be a bit much. But this year he was Johnny-on-the-spot, hammering in nails, working the twist ties, moving things til they looked just so, and leaving three or four times a day to buy more materials. “We need more lights, Missus!” “We need more garlands, Missus!” “We need more lights and garlands, Missus!” Great fun!

And although the weeks leading up to tonight were busy, (my calendar is a mess! Can’t wait to turn the page!) the stress has been reduced by a factor of 10, at least. Maybe because there was more room in my living room, I felt more room to breathe, take a moment, and wonder…wonder what it would have been like to have been in that stable two thousand years ago. The young couple, weary, exhausted, the woman having just given birth, dozing on her husband’s shoulder; the animals, at first started by their urgent entrance and the woman’s screams in labour, now quieted, peaceful; the angel-bedazzled shepherds and the exotic kings from the east bowing to worship the baby in a manger. (And for you Scripture scholars out there, I know I’m mixing my gospels and playing fast and loose with the liturgical calendar, but bear with me for a moment.) I watch all this from a quiet corner of the stable until the moment comes when I know it’s time for me to offer my presents. I step forward, kneel, rest my forehead on the rough wood and whisper, “Jesus. Little brother. I don’t have anything to give you, nothing that you’d want. But I need something from you tonight. You’re about to find out how difficult it is to live in this world you’ve come to save. You’re going to get really tired. You’re going to work so hard, and you’re going to fail. You are going to love your heart out, and it’s going to get you nailed to a cross. Oh there’s resurrection and ascension and all that good stuff on the other side, but in the moment, you’re going to feel weary, fed up, confused and frightened. Like I do sometimes. Like all your followers do sometimes. The straight and narrow road ain’t strewn with roses. Doing greater works than you leads to greater problems than we ever thought we’d have to handle and oh! sometimes Jesus we’re going to get it so wrong!”

“Not that we’re going to give up. No, because there is all that good stuff on the other side. You’ll shown us that. But right now, we need, I need, a little comfort and joy, just a touch to keep me going. So, if your mamma says it’s alright…” And I look over at the exhausted Madonna who gives me a little smile and a little nod. Then I gently move the baby over, carefully crawl in beside him and hold him warm against me. And as I inhale his clean baby scent from the top of his head, my body relaxes at last, and my eyes start to close.

Hoping we’ll all sleep in heavenly peace this sacred night. Merry Christmas all. And the best in 2017.

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