I grew up in a Christian home, in a time when being Christian was implied, and had a much milder, less militant meaning. I don’t actually know what my parents believed about God, I don’t remember it being a part of any conversations, although they must have answered my questions. I always had questions.
We went to church every Sunday. I went to Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, joined the choir wherever we were, learned Bible versus. When I was around 6, we went to a most amazingly beautiful church in Harrisburg, across the street from the capital building. I remember the glorious stained glass, the huge sanctuary. This church had a handbell choir, and I longed to be old enough to join. It also had a magnificent – and real – pipe organ, so I guess their music program was pretty grand. I sang in the choir, and I adored that.
I loved Advent, loved making Advent wreaths, loved making my family gather every Sunday evening for our own little ceremony, lighting the candles. I loved our creche, loved the beauty of the story of the First Christmas. And the decorating – those lights, that bling. My mother got me my own small artificial tree, and I scavenged lead tinsel and made walnut shell ornaments to decorate it. I adored the music, all of it, the silly and the sacred. As soon as I was old enough, I insisted on being the one to read Twas the Night Before Christmas to everyone on Christmas Eve. (Thanks, mom, for letting me do something you probably really enjoyed doing yourself.)
I feel a resonance now with the way I felt then. There is something, something around me that I can feel, but can’t quite grasp, just as there was then, just as there has been many, many times in the past, probably for as long as there have been humans. It’s a feeling of something coming, an impending happening. People around me seem to feel it, too, and I can feel the pressure of their waiting. Of my waiting.
I also feel hope, because I’ve come to believe very much in people, to see us as so weird and wonderful, so capable of acts of great kindness and beauty, of creativity. We are a marvel. So, through the un-comfort of waiting, through the darkness of winter, through the turning of the year, I see a weaving of color, of light, of Light. I can believe that what I am waiting for will be something grand, something magnificent, something I’ve never seen or heard of before.
I don’t think this is a religion thing, not even a primitive religion thing. Religion, after all, is a thing of the mind that we create to explain the deep, deep wonder of the unexplainable.
Something magnificent is coming. That’s the promise of this time of year, I think. We have evidence from time out of mind that the Light always returns. That was a miracle to our ancestors, and it still feels like a miracle to me.
(To my friends in the Southern Hemisphere – you’re experiencing the turning to the waning of Light. What a mystery that is to me, that the leaving of and returning to the Light can exist at the same time. )