The traditional Christmas celebrations happen whether you are plugged into them or not. I watch as
-the Salvation Army Bell ringers take their places, some with brass bands some just traditional bells
-the stores become more crowded
-the well wishers offer Merry Christmas near about everywhere
-the specialty foods come out on display
-the store employee list hugely increases
-people are more engaging and polite
-for weeks cards come to acknowledge the birth of a savior
-I hear carols sung, I participate in carol singing
-gifts are accumulated and then dispersed
-jokes of every kind fly around facebook
They are all meaningful and right. There will always be the grumpies, the ones who want Christ's birth to be completely isolated from the foolishness of American Christmas season, but I find that is is what is dwelling in my heart that God cares about.
-am I a spendthrift endangering my families financial well being?
-am I filled with foolishness of secular or pagan celebrations?
-do I foist so many sweets and treat foods on myself and others as to risk ruination of their health?
This is of course a significantly different Christmas season for me. I have had many tearing moments but I have also had many pleasant ones. Surprisingly the food has been the most difficult to deal with. Gene loved the treats of the season and was not very good at saying "no" so our children grew up with lots of special eats and flavors and significant foods and meals. Christmas Eve sugar cereal until they joined the adult ranks of a steak dinner, breakfast of fruit and sausage and English muffins with butter. Christmas all day nibbles of a veggie tray [the conclusion of which would bring the dessert tray which they liked much better!]
This has stumped me in this season of grief. Every treat makes me miss his joy fiercely. His smile over a cookie, his joy with a grapefruit [or several grapefruits and multiple cookies in a day.] The ready access to treats everywhere you go. Each brings tears that I can't tease him and get a cookie crumb kiss this year.
The constant need to be away from home DOING stuff, is it helpful? I don't know. The grief of the "kids" is keenly felt because I don't have the excitement of teasing them and holding the secrets with Gene. To watch their excitement build was 75% of the fun!
Gene and I would take a morning and look over the gifts purchased for friends and each family member and tally up what had been spent and EVERY year he would say we need to spend less next year. And occasionally we would pull some things back to save for birthdays. I would proudly tell him how much I spent and how much it usually sold for and he would grin at my sale finds and my penny pinching way. It was always a fun morning with him before the wrapping would take place.
God has been reinforcing to me, multiple times this year....It is not about me or my circumstances and it is not about the world's politicking, and it is not about the secularizing of the season and it is not about the pagan practices that the dates were hooked onto....It is about setting aside time from the ordinary to remember significant truth ...truth that is ignored come January and often by December 26th. Things go back to "normal" and the message of peace on earth loses it's luster as sarcasm and doubt come rushing back.
Maybe because of Gene's death it all has an unreal feel this year. A going through the motions, but this truth has been rooted deep within me ...it is not about me and my feelings [nor for that matter you and your feelings]. It is about a savior, a suffering servant savior sent from God the Father to fully understand sacrifice and grief and joy and excitement and tasty treats and gifts and trying times and pain and sorrow and muted joy.
It is a muted joy [like a trumpet mute] but the sound of a trumpet muted is still heard, coveted in fact in just the right time in the playing of the orchestra and it never fails to be heard. I can hear the muted joy, I hurt for others who are also experiencing a first Christmas in extraordinary ways. I can easily call to mind my friends Pat, who's husband escaped earth for heaven in March, and Shirley, who bid a sweet good bye as as her husband joined God in the heavenlies in September. Family members like Uncle James who buried his wife of 55 years yesterday and even vicarious friendships such as Phil who's wife slipped to heaven after a very long and very difficult illness. It is all muted joy because we know the truth and truth is truth and it is not about us.
So that is where I am today 4 months into the process. There is so much love, care, concern and gentleness that God my father is sending to me to hold me to His heart and I am not struggling to get down but it does keep me busy. So I am not thinking so much about all the traditional stuff. I am on muted joy!