“Are you ready for Christmas?” That’s the question I was asked on Tuesday by the nurse who was clasping a blood pressure cuff onto my wrist and placing my arm against my chest. I gave a simple answer, “Yes, I think so.” That was the simple answer because no one really wants to hear the complicated answer.
Am I ready for Christmas? If that means do I have a tree up and decorations around my house, then yes, I am ready. If it is another way of asking if I have shopped for gifts and have them wrapped and ready for giving, then yes, I am ready. If the nurse wanted to know if I am ready for two weeks off work, and spending time with my OFTP, then the answer is heck yeah, you better believe I am ready.
If you stepped onto my porch and peered through the wreath on the door you would see a home so ready for Christmas that the only thing lacking is a plate of fresh cookies for Santa. If you stepped into my body and peered into my soul you would see something completely different. I am not ready for time that passes so quickly that one Christmas runs seemingly seamless into another. I am not ready for my children to be so grown they will open their presents on Christmas morning and disappear into their own lives a few minutes later. I am not ready for the disappointment that I will inevitable feel because no Christmas ever measures up to the way they use to be when I was a child or when my children still believed in magic.
I am not ready for the awkwardness of exchanging gifts, especially when my offerings are meager. I am not ready for the floodgates of emotions to open and pour as they do at every Christmas Eve Mass when the souls of my dearly departed are remembered, especially on the one day of the year that makes me desperately miss my parents. I am not ready for the feeling of emptiness that comes when all the guests leave and the day that so much preparation was made for fades into plain old December 26.
Last night I spent time with some of my favorites who are good, Christmas-loving people. I hinted at my dispiritedness and was met with responses in agreement to my own feelings. As I listened to stories about fallen Christmas trees and other angsts my guilt was gently assuaged in the knowing that I was not alone.
I waked before the sun this morning, and in the darkness I lit all of the Christmas lights I’ve scattered here and there. As I sit here in the warm glow of the shining trees my Christmas spirit is beginning to wake as well. I plan to bake my family’s favorite cookies today, and that will make them happy, thereby increasing the level of joy throughout the house. The spirit will grow even more tomorrow as my OFTP and I make our annual tour of the cemeteries that hold our loved ones. That may sound like a depressing thing, but to us it is more of a comfort.
My level of readiness is growing as well. I am ready for some time with my family - nuclear, extended and otherwise. I am ready for good food and good cheer. But mostly I am ready for the sense of spiritual renewal that comes with celebrating the birth of Jesus. I am ready for the Gloria to return to Mass. I am ready to welcome The Way, The Truth, and The Life. I’m getting there, and with God’s hope I will arrive on time.