Usually at this time of year, I'm a hot mess of frantic activity, running from one rehearsal to another, slogging through slush and cold, toting music bags and work bags and shopping bags from place to place. But there's something different about this year.
It's rather quiet, and calm...dare I say even peaceful? I've decorated the house, and done the cards. I toyed with the idea of actually baking something (don't laugh, I have been known to bake things on occasion), and even pulled a few cookie recipes out of magazines. Yes, I actually sat down in a chair long enough to look through the December issue of a magazine. In spite of all the upheaval and sadness that have characterized the past several months, this season I feel an unusual sensation of peace.
Next Tuesday, our church is having a special service entitled "Comfort and Joy." It's designed for people who are having a hard time getting into the spirit of the season - for those who have suffered losses of family members, who are in the process of divorce or family troubles, who are jobless or even homeless. When this service was first announced some weeks back, I immediately marked the date onto my calendar, for this has been a year when loss abounded for me.
But as Tuesday approaches, it's almost as if I no longer feel the need to go, as if comfort and joy have already found me. Somewhere in the midst of decorating the house, placing the angel figurines on the mantel, scattering white candles around the house, and filling this Fitz and Floyd plate with golden ornaments, the spirit of Christmas has finally found me.
Comfort and joy comes to each of us in different and sometimes unexpected ways. Often for me it comes through music - and it's a curious thing that the avenue which sometimes causes me the most anxiety and wear during this time of year also brings me the most satisfaction and joy. There are others who find joy in cooking and crafting, or shopping and wrapping. Of course the time I spend with my family and my friends is a great source of comfort and joy, for what is more evocative of the spirit of Christmas than sharing happy times and memories with the ones we love. And though it may be tinged with sadness, for always there are thoughts of days gone by when children were small and families were whole, there is still comfort in the smiles, laughter, and even the tears that come from long years of shared experiences.
Perhaps it's simply a matter of having taking time this year, for I have consciously stepped back from many of the demands usually placed on me this season. My rather small Christmas shopping list has been further diminished by a decision to make donations to charitable organizations in honor of those friends for whom I usually buy trinkets or gift cards. Our gift to ourselves this year is a week spent in Florida with our son and daughter in law and we'll be driving down so we can take Magic and Molly along. But somehow, the thought of an 18 hour car ride seems relaxing rather than daunting.
It's quite a miracle really, this sense of golden peacefulness I'm feeling. I half expect to wake up in the morning my usual anxiety ridden December self.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe this year I have some extra angels watching over me, gently smoothing my furrowed brow and bringing tidings of comfort and joy just for me.
I hope so. And I hope you have some too.
So, how about you? What brings you comfort and joy in the midst of the holiday season?