Christmas is a time of contrasts in many ways. In the northern climes, one travels regularly from warmth to sometimes bitter cold and back again. There is commotion all around it seems - frantic rushing to prepare, holiday greetings shared, the raucous laughter of loved ones gathered together. But in the end - when all the presents are opened, all are tucked in bed, the lights turned low except for the glow of the tree and the last flickering embers in the hearth - there is silence.
Many of my happiest memories of Christmas revolve around those times - when all the work and preparation and effort have come to a successful conclusion and the world closes down to soft music in the background, a candle or two burning low, the tree ablaze in twinkling lights - and the signature Christmas glow of contentment and unbridled hope for the future.
My eyes will fall on the nativity, recalling the hymns sung fervently earlier in the evening, and I will allow the profundity of that simple scene to put things in perspective and remind me once again of the purpose of the season. The candlelit, a capella 'Silent Night' that ends our church service every year will play again in my head - and I will shed another bittersweet tear, recalling how that moment always touched my mother so deeply and how she so dearly loved this season.
But its not a moment of sadness at all. Its a time of fond memories, blessings recounted, warmth that spans generations and time and astral planes - a moment to share in the heart with all those who's physical presence can no longer be shared. I will be alone in the room, but surrounded by those I love and have loved.
After a time, I will quietly move to the closet, bundle up warmly, and then venture forth for a walk in the crisp night air. This year, there will be snow and - if the skies are clear - some moonlight to mark my path. My eyes will search the heavens, and rest upon that same star of legend and lore that has guided countless souls before me to their destination - and perhaps to their destiny. I will listen to the night and attempt to garner all it has to teach - and through it all, I will offer countless quiet prayers of thanks for all the blessings bestowed upon me, chief among them the people who touch my life, who offer their hand in support, who buoy me with their smiles, who fill my heart, who give me reason and hope.
To all who may read this, I wish a season of blessings and smiles, joy and hope, peace and happiness, health and love - and perhaps a quiet moment alone with your thoughts to contemplate and appreciate them all. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.