I’ve been trying to get around to writing about our candlelit Christmas for a bit now. Oddly, it’s not easy to set aside time for writing (or even thinking, sometimes), with a wriggly six-week-old as a loud and pleasant constant companion. I’m tempted to write in metaphor, some bit about light and darkness that would be profound and not so unflattering to me, but there’s a nagging conviction that I should be more honest about my experience. Anyway, my father’s already written that post here. Read his, read mine, and a belated Merry Christmas to all!
Christmas morning eggs, prepared on the back porch.
Photo: Richard Dahlstrom
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, by Dr. Seuss
Christmas Day, 1:15 AM. Luci and I are startled awake in Grandma’s living room, where we’ve been sleeping in front of the gas fireplace because it’s warmer than our bedroom. The house, so quiet for three days without electricity, is suddenly alive with noises. The refrigerator hums complacently, white lights wink at us from the Christmas tree, and the washing machine, halted in the middle of a spin cycle, roars to life.
“It’s a Christmas miracle!” I exclaim aloud, since we weren’t predicted to have power again for almost 48 hours. Upstairs, I hear my parents plugging in phones and removing “The Muppet Christmas Carol” from where it was trapped in the DVD player, while Timmy turns the heater back on in our frigid, snowbound bedroom. Ten minutes later everything blinks off again. Oh, never mind.
The falsely restored electricity is just the most recent in a long string of challenges this week. Yes, the power shut off on Monday night (it’s now Friday morning), plunging our rural street into darkness from 4:00 PM to 8:00 AM each day. But we’d already received four feet of snow in as many days at that point, and we’d get three feet more by the time Christmas arrived. This means that the freeway, the main artery between the eastern and western halves of our state, has been intermittently closed, including all day Christmas Eve. So no Christmas shopping, no candlelight service in Seattle. I’m surprised to realized that these things matter to me at all, but they do. I’m sure I’m not alone in remarking that Christmas, meant to be a time of joyously celebrating our Savior’s birth, has taken on layers of extra expectations over the years, and mine have been thwarted this week.
Indeed, I’m a little disturbed by the extent to which the lack of electricity bothers me. Friends guess that this must be difficult with a newborn baby. Not really. Luci goes to sleep when it gets dark, and her most pressing problem is that the ceiling fan, which she loves, is no longer spinning. No, I want to say, this is difficult for me! I can’t bake cookies or cinnamon rolls! I can’t listen to Christmas music! Even the Christmas tree isn’t on! I modify Amy’s lament from Little Women for myself: Christmas isn’t Christmas without electricity.
All of this, of course, is somewhat petty nonsense. I’m reminded of one childhood Christmas, when my siblings and visiting cousins all received giant plush toys–bears and tigers and alligators–while I received a porcelain music box. My grandmother apparently believed that I, at the age of eight or nine, was enough of a grown-up young lady to enjoy something strictly ornamental. No such luck. I was petulant, dissatisfied in a way that still embarrasses me slightly. Unable to appreciate the gift I’d been given, I stomped my feet and wished for what everyone else had, a stuffed animal of my own to play with.
The irony is that Advent itself is a time of expectation, but I’ve taken to expecting the wrong things. Each year we set aside this season to dwell in joyous waiting for Christ’s birth, remembering the beauty of hope fulfilled in Him. This expectation–unlike my constant refreshing of the power company’s estimated power restoration time–doesn’t disappoint. Thank God, quite literally, for a better reason to celebrate than special food, special music, a special tree.
Luci and I, enjoying her first Christmas morning.
Photo: Richard Dahlstrom
Christmas morning, in the blue-glowing light of day, is a different gift this year, but a gift all the same, which chastens my complaining with its uncomplicated magnificence. Dad makes sausage and eggs on the camp stove on the back porch, while my mother builds a fire. Timmy, Luci and I snuggle under blankets on the couch and look not at the dark tree, but out to the gloriously snowy new world that our street has become. Holly and her fiance, Chris, drive up around lunchtime, and we share a day of laughter and rest. Holly plays her new ukulele and we sing Christmas carols.
Later we gather around the table, eating barbecued chicken thawed from the freezer, and to talk and feast in the candlelight. It is quiet and lovely, rich in the gifts of family and rest. It is Christmas, not stolen by a storm and several dozen snapped power lines. We are rich in love, warm and safe, and infinitely thankful this Christmas Day for the gifts we enjoy, and the God who gave us all of this and the ultimate gift of His son, born for us.
Candlelit Christmas dinner.
Photo: Richard Dahlstrom