I don’t know if it’s my age, or the age of my children, but I can’t muster much enthusiasm for the gift-giving side of Christmas this year. No one in this house suffers from a lack of necessities or even small luxuries. Sure, a new sweater might be nice, and I have a book in mind for each one, as I always do. Usually when the children ask, I can give them a short list of things I might like to have myself. I have loved to open little presents in my stocking, and I’ve been known to say it’s not what they give me but the idea they are thinking of me that really matters.
But this year is different, and for the past few weeks, I’ve had a sense there is something else I want this Christmas, though I could not have told you what it might be.
It’s possible I feel differently because I *am* different this year. My head is clearer. I have a better since of who I am then I ever have before. When I find myself in a situation where my buttons are in danger of being pushed, I’m learning how to take a breath and wait to see how things turn out instead of arriving at the conclusion far ahead of the reality.
I knew that already, of course, in my sane mind, but some part of me still craved the excitement of giving and receiving gifts that were just right.
This year, I wanted something else. But what?
It’s an emotional season, and I never know just what will strike me.
In the car the other day, I listened to the King’s College recording, "Noel: Christmas at King’s," which is odd and gorgeous and as over-sized as the delay between the organ and the choir as the notes of "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" roll out of pipes and throats.
It almost amused me, until it caused me to gasp.
I was in the parking lot of the grocery store when I heard the words that spun my head, and there could be no more ordinary, human place, a store near both the poor and the not-so-poor of City By the Sea, a place where some of the more diverse elements of our modestly diverse small city shop together for their everyday needs.
And in that ordinary place, I listened as if for the first time to these extraordinary words:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
Those are the fancy-pants words, the ones that always leave me wondering what the people in the pews on Christmas Eve think they are singing about, if they even pay attention. But wait for it, here comes the part that stunned me.
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
And for the first time in years, I didn’t get hung up on the exclusively male language for humankind, because I heard the word "pleased" instead.
God was "pleased" to live among us in Jesus.
I can hardly take it in, but I do believe it was exactly what I wanted, and needed, for Christmas.