December 26th of 2003 found me rather blue. I’ve never done well with Christmas Day being over, and it was too early in our now long-standing practice of observing the twelve full days of Christmas for it to seem “real” yet. The rest of the world had moved on, and I felt very solitary in my effort to hang on to Christmas in the way my heart told me I could. I wanted to keep it, but I didn’t know how.
“Why don’t you write about it?” my husband suggested.
A flame leapt inside me at his words, and I immediately started jotting notes on things I loved, things I’d learned, things I struggled with and things I wanted to remember. I spent the rest of that week scribbling happily away by the fire and the light of my Christmas tree–and I kept writing well into January. What was growing beneath my eager hands, I realized, was a little collection of meditations, a book of days for Christmas. And as the manuscript materialized, I knew exactly what I was meant to do with it.
I look back on 2004 as a whole year gilded with Christmas magic, as I wrote, collected quotes and carols, and perused loved Scriptures–all in good old King James, of course, because it’s some of the most beautiful words in the English language. I set up a card table in the corner of the den where I dabbled in watercolors to illustrate the pages. And when it was finished, printed and cut, I hand-bound each one in colorful Japanese papers and laced the spines with silk velvet ribbon.
Twelve copies–one to represent each of the twelve days of Christmas. One for twelve of my kindred spirits.
I could hardly wait to give my friends their presents that year. Christmas came early, of course, seeing as I wanted them all to have them by December 1, when the book of meditations commenced. I kept one for myself, and I never see it that I don’t remember that sweet year-long Christmas, and the joy of giving my friends a little piece of my heart.
Here is the entry for December 1:
Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she come and help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42
How strong the temptation during the glad bustle and busyness of the Christmas season to assume more of the attitude of Martha than that of Mary: “Lord, don’t You care? Look at all that I have to do!” Let us make no mistake, however: Martha wasn’t doing a bad thing; it was what she had left undone in all of the hustle and excitement that grieved Jesus. She was living in the gifts of hospitality and homemaking that God had given to her. But she was neglecting something better, something that would give meaning and eternal significance to the work that lay before her. Her sin was one of oversight; her vision of the unspeakable realities was clouded by a false sense of urgency. Remember, it was Martha who raced out to meet Jesus when Lazarus died, “as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming”, while her sister “sat still in the house.” Mary had a quiet heart. She placed first priority on listening to whatever Jesus wanted to say to her. And so must we, if we want to live in all of the fullness and fulfillment of our individual callings. Simplicity looks different for each of us, and it is only in inquiring of the Lord—and, more importantly, being quiet enough to listen to anything that He may wish to communicate to us—that the way of simplicity is made clear. “Teach me Your way, O Lord, lead me in a plain path…” (Psalm 27:11). All around us are corruptions and imitations of simplicity, facades which can only be discerned by the “wisdom which comes from above” which is “first of all pure, then peaceable…” (James 3:17)
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” James 1: 5
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear