I Wish You a Merry After-Christmas

Yesterday much of the globe spent at least a little time celebrating something we call “Christmas.” Christmas is meant to be an act of communal and personal remembering. I had hoped that December 25 would mostly be a day that I could commit to the remembering of Jesus that helps to renew my inner self (2 Cor 4:16). However, my thoughts were rarely able to be collected long enough for that to be the focus of the day. When I was able to reflect at all, I found myself asking myself, “what am I actually making this day about?” and “how will I do the hard work of remembering with all of these disruptions?”
I am not certain I welcomed the answers to my self-questions. My day was about putting one foot in front of the other and getting through a very long list of mundane tasks. It was a day about the work of preparing for guests at the Abbey – a good thing, in and of itself.  Near the end of the day I was able to stand and chat for a few moments with an extremely disenfranchised person who told me she loved to take off her shoes before our gas stove and let the heat seep into her very bones, she enjoyed the Christmas tree that was of the real variety and smelled like winter and therefore Christmas itself. In those moments I realized she was accessing memory and remembering as a means to push through to some joy – on a day that was mostly sad for her. A day she spent with strangers who invited her to be family, if only for a few moments.  It was nostalgia of what had been, not the actual presence of a tree and a fire that brought her joy. Although the tree was pleasant to her eye, and the fire warmed her, these were not the benefits that most affected her ability to experience joy. Remembering – this was the place where bygone joys could be encountered again, through the tangible, sensory artefacts in the environment of our dining room.
In those moments I was struck, quite viscerally, by the reality of what “life” is meant to be about on planet earth. Everything we touch, smell, taste, see, and hear has been given as a means to our enjoyment in the present. However, as we enter into the sensory experience of the moment, we are meant, also, to be remembering… remembering a Creator and the cosmos he sang into being that we are in the now sensing. That inner tell-tale gasp when we sometimes come upon a sight, or the internal murmur when we are hit by a fragrance or again the tightness in our chests when we feel something that catches at our rememberer and we name it nostalgia, or don’t name it at all. All of those in-present-tense sensory engagements are meant to connect us again to the love that is at the heart of the universe. The love that called us into being and continues to call us to be at onement with God through Christ.
We live in an age of disruption. At Christmas we are confronted with an overabundance of sensory data: songs, lights, food, faces, words, stories and much more. My day, yesterday was filled with disruptions from the silence and solitude I sought so that I might contemplate Christ, but filled with the data necessary to direct me to Christ – if only I would allow myself to be attentive. That woman I met, knew, out of desperation, how to wring joy out of current experience by connecting it to bygone reality.
When Christmas – this holiday season- is all said and done and we wrap it up with all the tree ornaments and put it aside for another year, we will return to the day to day merry-go-round of activity that can become just a long chain of disruption to remembering. Or, we can choose to allow the mundane tasks of each day to benefit us in at least two ways. First, by finding the goodness that has been embedded within them by our good God. Second, by allowing them to take us beyond the here and now to remember the child who came, to remember the Savior who died.