Has anybody else been struggling with saying goodbye to the Christmas season?
As of today, it’s officially over. Epiphany, which we celebrated this weekend, marks the end of Christmas for the Church. We’re to move on now, though not away from the messages that have been tucked into our hearts. But on a practical, human level, I’ve been fighting walking away.
On Saturday night, my pianist and I lamented this as we practiced to play for and sing at the 5 p.m. Mass at our church, Sts. Anne & Joachim. Though I didn’t spend Christmas here, I was delighted to be there for several Masses following, so I could absorb the beauty of the sanctuary, all decked out in Christmas glory.
But as Bradley and I talked, we commiserated about how it’s all going to be gone soon. In fact, as I’m typing this, there’s likely a decoration committee at our church removing all of these beautiful adornments.
I, too, spent part of Sunday removing ornaments from the tree, pulling tinsel, and sweeping up pine needles. As I tried gently removing the ornaments, I was pierced several times by dry, prickly “thorns.” It was as if the regret I was feeling over saying goodbye was being cemented with a stinging, “Take that!” Like a knife being jabbed in and turned round a few times.
Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad, but as we discussed saying adieu to Christmas, Bradley said something that hit home. “After we take all the decorations down, we’re just stuck with the cold, bleakness of January.”
Ugh. He’s right, I thought. And I think that’s part of why I’ve been dragging my feet. I loved the glow of the Christmas tree, more than ever this year, as I shared here.
And on Christmas Eve, after midnight Mass, my family and I emerged from the cathedral into the most beautiful scene, complete with large, fluffy snowflakes falling from the quiet sky. As I shook Monsignor Richter’s hand, we noted how perfect it was, and giggled at our good fortune. It was the kind of Christmas Eve setting Bing Crosby sang about all those years ago. And there we were, walking into it!
That night was a reprieve from the bitter winter we’ve been experiencing here in North Dakota. It started Dec. 1, and hasn’t really relented for more than a few days in between before the next cold front makes its appearance. It’s early January, and though we’re normally hardy around these parts, even we are growing weary.
Add to that the fact that my father died a year ago on Jan. 11, and it probably makes even more sense why I’ve not been rushing past Epiphany like an eager beaver.
All that said, as I sang Christmas carols one last time for the year at that Saturday evening Mass, something new and hopeful was placed on my heart. The homily had just been delivered by our deacon, and it resonated.
He said the three wise men were pagans; unbelievers who, nevertheless, were so struck by the brightness of the star, and rumors of a forever king, that they left everything to follow it. He reminded us, too, that the light is still there, beckoning us. And, I would add, it will never leave as long as the earth is spinning. After that point, it will be much more than starlight, something even brighter and everlasting.
Just listening to his sermon, it was if the cold icicles that have necessarily formed around my heart just to survive began to drip. I realized that this isn’t some dreaded phase we’re entering. The light still shines, it will never go away even when blackness surrounds. We can always, at any point, look up and go in search of it. And when we arrive at its source, we will not be disappointed.
With this guiding vision in mind, I am feeling more equipped, less melancholy, more hopeful about what’s coming next. I realize that all good things must end, but they will be back, and in the meantime, new beginnings are about to happen.
I want to be awake for that, to embrace all of it, come what may. I’m starstruck now and moving again toward the light. I hope you’ll come along, too.
Q4U: What feelings does this time of year evoke for you?
Update: After posting this on Facebook, my friend Amanda and a few others noted that the Christmas season doesn’t really end on Epiphany. Here’s an informative article I enjoyed reading on the subject. It’s great news for this reluctant heart. Christmas continues, and after that, there are other feasts and celebrations to anticipate!