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Well, that’s finally finished! I packed and put away all of the Christmas decorations, linens and dishes. It was a bittersweet job. As I sorted, wrapped, packed and hauled box after box back to the basement I though about what I had hoped for during the holidays and what actually happened. I realized the entire season went by and I spent very little time listening to Christmas music. I didn’t bake as much as one Christmas cookie. Okay, there were miniature brioche, stollen, pannettone, bagels and my usual sourdough baguettes – but no cookies. It’s too late to do it now. Really, who wants spritz and krumkake in January? It’s as if Christmas came and went and I missed part of the traditions that are supposed to make it special and important.

I thought about the lunch I had with a friend about a week before Christmas. Much of our conversation focused on life issues – you know, the ‘yuck’ of life that we never expect to be present during the holiday season. I mean, it should be all fa-la-la and jingle bells, right? And, the weekend before Christmas the church around the corner had 2 funerals…in one day! Really? Not at Christmas! That’s just an insult to the season.

The buzz of conversation in the restaurant muted the background Christmas music. After plenty of coffee, I made my way to the restroom. The stillness there allowed me to hear Bing Crosby lament about white Christmases, elusive traditions and bygone sentimentalities. It brought back memories of less than perfect Christmases in my own life…seasons that were supposed to be joyful, but were instead tainted with family issues and emotional struggles.  I recalled the Christmas my daughter was deployed and I had to fight off the tears each time I heard any rendition of I’ll Be Home For Christmas, a song from 1943 that comes from the perspective of WWII troops. Or last year when she was unable to take leave to come home from her assigned base at Pearl Harbor. Mele Kalikimaka had the same effect. My lament was that this special time of year was supposed to be different. Worries, sadness, loss, frustrations, loneliness and all of the emotions we generally hope to avoid are supposed to go away for a few weeks. We long to be wrapped in good feelings, family and love so completely that gloominess and spiders just go away. Well, maybe not spiders. They are simply on my mind from so many trips into the cave of a basement that supports our 1930’s home. I am convinced they have spent generations taking over that space and are just waiting to jump when I walk through their territory. Truth be told, I didn’t see even one…I just know they have to be there.

The thing is, life seems to tick away without regard for our expectations whether they are for a perfect Christmas or finding spiders. It simply is what it is.

Amazingly, therein lies the secret and beauty of Christmas. Christ came to give us hope that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

The yuck of life will happen. It doesn’t matter if it is mid-July or late-December. The difference is, in the quiet hours of a winter night love was and continues to be revealed to us, not to take away the difficulties presented by life, but to walk with us and guide us on this crazy journey while continuously reminding us that the one who created us loves us more than we can imagine and nothing that life can throw at us will ever change that.

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