We have spent a fair amount of time in our house this year thinking about, writing about, singing about, and planning for Christmas. That’s what writing a Christmas program will do; in September, we were playing Christmas carols while we edited. We planned, we shopped, we called upon other people and their talents for painting, instruments, and singing. We practiced, discussed, and practiced some more. We spent months preparing to celebrate. Then last weekend, we threw open the doors and celebrated in earnest. We told a dramatic story, sang together sometimes and sometimes listened while others sang. Such a shared experience makes people vulnerable and more willing to share their thoughts and their hearts, and we did that too, over cookies and punch. We gave gifts and stayed out late, and when we finally got to our beds, I’m certain it took a fair number of those who were most involved awhile to unwind.
That’s what it is to celebrate. We happened to do it through drama. But in large part, all of those elements are part of any good celebration. We become extravagant in our joy; we “open our shut-up hearts more freely” as Charles Dickens’ Fred told his uncle Scrooge.
Maybe we’re closer to getting celebration right around Christmas. The best thing the planet has known since we were banished from Eden happened at Christmas: our Reconciler was born. So of course, we celebrate! There can be peace between our souls and God. We should celebrate! Is there any wonder that the whole world still celebrates such an occasion hundreds of years later? We buy gifts and attend feasts even if we don’t fully understand why. Maybe there is too much “stuff”; but then again, maybe we should all be part of a giant musical number belting out our joy in celebration. Maybe we should pull out all the stops we have on a feast in preparation for the Feast that is coming. I am quite sure that Feast will be more extravagant than anything we could dream up in our celebrations. Maybe if we were all passing around the dishes while we sang that musical number, with no difference between audience and stage, we would be the closest we’re going to get to that great Feast day.
I have heard it pointed out that the angels didn’t “sing” their Advent Song to the shepherds on the hillside. At least, the Bible doesn’t actually say that they sang. But how on earth could such an announcement of grace, brought straight from Heaven to a broken earth NOT sound like a song? I suspect the most casual words spoken in Heaven would sound like music to us who have only ever known brokenness. When a song is begun in earnest There…I suspect we couldn’t handle the sheer joy of it’s rhythm.
Were we celebrating when we were hashing out the plot in January and February? What about when we were going through the exhausting work of editing? (Hours, I tell you.) Were we celebrating then? What about when we sorted and gathered props; were we celebrating then? What about when we actually did the program? And the refreshments afterward? I think we were; in the same way that celebration now prepares us for celebration Then. For now, all of these celebrations are just practice. Holidays are special; a happy reprieve. But one day we will not wait for special days to come; we will only ever go “further up and further in.” Each wonderful day will be better than the last–even though there will be no distinction of days; no sense of anything good ever ending.