I wouldn't say that I'm a Christian - or anything, for that matter. I don't follow any one religion or worship any certain god. Our Divine common thread is what I concern myself with. And this God can be found in all teachings. So it's very easy for me to celebrate Christmas and the Love that Jesus taught - without agreeing with, caring, or even knowing about all of the biblical messages that would contradict that Love. I know enough to know that they're there, but I choose to overlook them in favor of what feels right to me. It's a personal interpretation. I decorate my world with that interpretation! And I look forward to this time of year!
Almost every Christmas Eve, I go with my family to one of the local Methodist churches for one of the candlelight services they hold. I enjoy the communion, the songs, the sea of glowing candles. We weren't able to attend this year, however, because of the icy weather. I was a little disappointed, but decided I could celebrate in another way: by going for a walk in the snow - and I have to say, it was an idea much more romantic in my head.
I walked around the neighborhood, enjoying the Christmas lights, the star and nativity scene decorations, and all the trees lit up in front windows - as much as I could. The snow fell, the night was blustery, and was in my eyes. And as I usually am at this time of year, I was inappropriately dressed - which only made things worse. I didn't stay out for long but I did have a nice time. How blessed I am to have a warm place to come back to and all the hot showers able to be had.
There were 19 of us crammed in to the den, gathered around for our gift exchange. While it is time consuming, I've come to like the tradition we have of each person opening their gifts one at a time. We have a chance to see what everyone got and to hear the reasons for and stories behind them.
Most of my family members I don't see except for on holidays, so it's cool being able to catch up with them and to hear what new things are going on in their lives. Every one of them has a story to tell, though they tell them in different ways.
I join in and laugh, absolutely, but I often prefer to sit in observance. I'm able to take them all in that way and I'm able to appreciate their different qualities. I watch them as they open their gifts, as they gather in the kitchen and fill their plates with all the wonderful food. I notice how they interact with each other and see them as they laugh. I look at their faces. And when I hug them goodbye I wonder if they know - each one of them, in different kinds of ways - how much I love them. We usually don't say it. Not in words.
A few years ago, at the height of my reclusiveness, I fled my grandmother's house for the entire Christmas holiday, while family came to visit. I stayed alone at a nearby hotel and it ended up being one of my favorite Christmases ever! At this point, I still tend to favor isolation over large groups of people, and was thinking I might pull that again this year, but thought better of it at the last minute - and I'm glad about that. But those memories really called to me, so on Christmas afternoon after most everyone had left, I checked in to the Hyatt and stayed over night.
My time in that little room on the 18th floor was just as nourishing for me as it had been years before. I asked for a room facing the expressway and was pleased with what I got. It was that overnight view of 75 that drew me there in the first place. I read some and wrote some, but the majority of my time was spent with my lights off, listening to music, gazing out the window. I didn't have floor to ceiling windows like I did before, but there was a very long, sturdy desk in front of the window, so I cleared everything off and was able to rest on top of it and look from there.
Lying there with that view I was given such a strange perspective - halfway between the earth and sky. The moon kept watch off in the distance; we were two curious bystanders to the light display around us, distant peers. The small blinking plane lights mingling with lights of the city. The near steady stream of traveling car lights. Restful, bleary eyes turned all of these in to an aimless stream of stars, both calm and shooting, in a field of darkness.
What I loved about the passing cars, this time and last, was imagining where they all could be going at such a late hour. I could see many were truckers making a haul, but were any of them on their way or way back home from visiting for the holidays? Maybe some of them were locals out to get milk or cigarettes. Were any of the passing cars carrying families with their little ones tucked in the back, sleeping? Were they individuals alone and lonely? Was anyone out there like me by themselves, dreaming, in love?