A few days ago, I was on the road early, heading east. The sun was rising through a bank of clouds on the edge of the prairie and it was a glorious sight. People who live where there is a crowded sky never really know the pleasures of seeing a day pass from horizon to horizon. Frank Sinatra was on the stereo, singing "One for my baby," and, you know, Ol' Blue Eyes could sing. It was a good...moment.
Of course, the reason I was on the road early was because I was taking my wife to an early morning doctor's appointment -- tests to nail down the cause of some worrisome symptoms. And, while Frank Sinatra could sing, in real life he was apparently quite a jerk and while it's a beautiful song, it's about him getting drunk and driving home after whining to a bartender about an unhappy affair.
The car stereo finished with Frank and moved on to John Mellencamp, then to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. The sun made its way into view and the beauty of the sunrise was gone; now I was just vaguely irritated that I'd forgotten my sunglasses.
Life is like that -- a constant shifting amalgam of beauty overlain by worry, good art coming from bad people, a moment's glory swallowed in a day's duties.
The Christmas season is like that, too. The splendor of a baby's birth, followed by the stunning awareness that this particular baby was born to die. A sacred occasion swallowed by a secular holiday, a holiday marked by excess, fruitcake, and maudlin TV specials. People buying too much stuff to give to people who already have too much stuff, and newspaper articles reminding us that we are a consumer society, so our prosperity evidently depends on our spending ourselves into bankruptcy.
I quite often get a little Scroogy around Christmas, whipsawed by the conflicts between what Christmas is supposed to be and what it is and the emotions that come from memories of Christmas's past and to come. This Christmas my whole family is coming, bringing a grandniece who is going to be seeing her first Christmas, which has helped my Christmas spirit more than a little bit. Still, behind my grey beard and puzzled eyes, Scrooge is always lurking, along with the concerns about what Christmas is really supposed to be about. But that morning, on the road on a beautiful day, headed to a place I didn't want to go, I had a mild epiphany.
Christmas is all about faith.
Not ours. Ours comes on Good Friday and Easter morning.
No, the faith that gives us the real meaning of Christmas is God's; the long ago faith that set this all in motion, the faith that we will prove to be worthy of the sacrifice which will be made for our sake.
I realize that adds a little weight to what is supposed to be a weightless holiday, a little more responsibility to folks who already feel like they have as much responsibility as they need. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe not.
Just a thought I had, on an early morning's drive into a splendid sunrise.