In midst of chaos, Christmas will come
Last updated 12/18/2019 at 6:47pm | View PDF
Every year, my husband and I debate the aesthetics of our outdoor holiday lights. I like the lights to look symmetrical and enchanting and labor over each light placement. He calls the job done after plugging in a few strands of lights and casting the tangled mass, like a fishing net, in the vicinity of our shrubs, eschewing order for natural chaos, and quickly moving on to other more important to-dos.
I'm not sure whose approach is better, and I can see the merits of both techniques, but I find myself wishing for more things - or maybe just one thing in life, like Christmas lights - to go smoothly and easily this month.
You see, I'm wishing my life were tidy and enchanting, like those holiday lights or a Christmas gift wrapped in glossy red wrapping paper and nestled in the folds of our Christmas tree skirt - all weaknesses, fears and failures of human life wiped away. But my life and yours are not all simplicity and joy.
Try as we might, we cannot cure all life's ills by Wednesday, my friends. We will hang lights, top presents with bows and bake Christmas cookies, but impeachment proceedings, 5G cell towers, D86 curriculum changes and the flu still exist and weigh heavily on our minds. How do we acknowledge despair and disappointments while celebrating Christ and hope, too?
If I shaped this mind-wrestling into Christmas carol form, it would be a real but hopeful "Twelve Days of Christmas" - a song less delightful than the original, but still catchy. It would weave between happiness and human struggle, comfort and pain. Could singing the ups and downs of the season possibly temper my drive for holiday perfection and grow my ability to chill and be joyful even when everything isn't alright?
My song would begin, "On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me: a string of lights tangled in a tree," followed with:
Twelve friends affirming
Eleven women worrying
Ten helpers helping
Nine kids complaining
Eight warm embraces
Seven wounding phrases
Six beds with blankets
Five health concerns
Four tasty meals
Three broken hearts
Two snowmen built
And a string of lights tangled in a tree...
All of these things, broken and redeemed, are Christmas.
My husband laughed as I reworked our tangled lights last week.
They're far from perfect, but they shine a welcome light on dark winter nights. I'm thankful for our halting, persistent efforts to turn them on, and for the company of my sweet husband as we enjoy the lights outside our window and grow hopeful for the holiday ahead.
Merry Christmas, Hinsdale. May prayers help transform our burdens and the possibility of redemption shine a light on us all.
- Carol Wittemann of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected]