And of course the inevitable bad white Christmas joke:
What kind of pizza does good King Wenceslaus like?
Deep pan, crisp pan, even.
There was a part of me that really, really, really wanted to bump into a faun carrying parcels. And, as in Narnia, Christmas did arrive in Scotland: neither the power of the White Witch or the darkness could overcome it.
There's something about hearing those words in the first chapter of John, read over Christmas in this darkest time of year, that have the power to fill me with a joy that goes beyond my ability to articulate. The words hit home, strike a chord, breathe new life into a sometimes ragged hope and give me courage to keep going:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.2345
'The life was the light of all people... and the darkness did not overcome it.' Something changed this year over Advent and Christmas for me: I noticed a shift from sadness and loss and the sense of inevitable dread of Christmas - and what has felt for these last several years as jolliness being imposed upon me - to renewed enthusiasm, the thrill of expectation and the knowledge of joy being not only in the head, but in the heart also.
Christmas has, since 2001, been associated with bereavement: within 8 weeks the loss of a significant relationship, loss of home and loss of my grandmother. The first two were hard, but those wounds healed pretty well. It was the last which went beyond emptiness and needed more time. Nan was that one person everyone should have in their life - the one who cheers you on, who loves you utterly, who believes in you and who understands you and fights for your causes. It was a fierce, protective love and she was my point of stability, support and sanctuary. She gave me the gift of allowing me to be just me - and if I am vaguely sane, it is due to her. And, of course, if I'm not vaguely sane, then I guess I could be a heck of a lot worse...!
As I moved through Advent into Christmas this year, and even bought a tree, I began to realise that the long season of mourning had run its course. The light had finally pierced through that long, dark, winter of my soul and Christmas arrived... as indeed it does, each year and every day in the wonder of the incarnation and the Word made flesh.
As a postscript there was a comedy moment involving the tree:
Possibly having a car would have been useful for doing this....
A walk to the local tree place, which promised delivery, resulted in arriving at gates firmly bolted on the Sunday before Christmas. Whilst heartily endorsing the scruples that perhaps wanted to 'keep Sunday special', to have a business which was solely for the purpose of flogging Christmas trees shut on the Sunday nearest Christmas did seem slightly batty in my mind.
This meant trogging up to the outskirts of Fort Kinnaird to find, and bring home, the Christmas tree.
As I paid for the tree, the chap heaved the thing over his shoulder to take it to my non-existent car. I smiled regretfully and told him I'd be doing this the old fashioned way. Heaving it over my shoulder, away I slid over the icy path to the roundabout.
Bemused drivers, taking pity on me, stopped on the busy roadway and watched a rather short person carting a rather large tree across the road to the bus stop a looooooong way away.
This was followed by a bus driver who looked mildly stunned as a Christmas tree walked onto the bus followed by my grin and greeting of 'merry Christmas'.
And then bemused looks from onlookers as I carried the thing the 3 blocks home, on my shoulders in the snow and ice. Given my shoulders could hardly move the following day, plus the arrival of some very oddly shaped bruises, I discovered other reasons why it is not often I bother with getting a tree!
But she has been lovely: I'm sitting looking at the gold and purple decorations and twinkling lights and thinking she's going to last quite happily until the Epiphany party next week. She will then be tenderly chopped [an oxymoron?!] up, stored until the wood dries out and then used for the fire for next Christmas - and I quite like the symmetry of that.