It was 1973. I lived in a tiny, albeit charming, one bedroom apartment along the river. When foggy, lake freighters would blast location warnings to other ships often sending me through the roof. Those horns were loud. One morning, I woke with a sea-faring cargo ship moored outside my windows. It was so close I could see the crew, and they could see me, too. I seldom drew the shades because mostly it was a pretty private spot. That morning, I was thankful I’d worn pyjamas to bed. Anyway, I waved and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind me obviously. When I came out, the boat was making its way into the shipping channel. I saw some arms waving, so I returned the farewell with a mental reminder to close the curtains on foggy nights from now on.
My mother died in February of that year, so it was my first Christmas without her. I was also alone. Waking on Christmas morning, by myself, turned out to be not the nicest experience I’ve ever had. I vowed it would not happen ever again. But it has. It’s not felt quite as bad as that first time, though. I steeled myself, perhaps, or simply got used to it.
Whatever the case, whether alone or with family or friends, I’ve always kept my love for this season. Nothing, not even the hardest or saddest times ever dampened the joy I let it bring. When working as a music director, the months of rehearsal and preparation were fun. Oh sure, there was stress because I didn’t know who to handle it then, but I still loved it all; the decorations, the festivities, the shopping, the colours – you name it I loved it. I don’t have a clue why, and it doesn’t matter.
Now, saying all of that, I’m not traditional about it anymore and have not been for a long, long time. I’ve not had a tree, for example, since 1994. Oh, I decorate, have no doubt. Every room is set a glow with Christmasy things, and lights are wrapped around garland wherever I can put them. But, no tree. I wouldn’t do a live one in spite of loving the smell. And, of course, there’s no turkey. But the meals are fantastic without it.
Last season, I was with my girls. It was wonderful. I’m happy to be with family again this year, but will miss daughter number one and her fella. This is what’s awkward about having kids so far apart. We’ve been doing it like this for a long time, though.
My wish tonight is for grace, both the noun and the verb. The noun meaning is “courteous good will” while the verb means to “bring honour”. During this time of holiday making and over-indulgence, we can lose sight of virtues. I am reminded of the teaching, “When you’ve the opportunity to choose right or kind, choose kind.” Kind is a grace filled choice. Of course, that’s the noun meaning, yes? Here’s the verb. Regardless of your beliefs, in the western world, history has shown we can bring honour to our race during this season. We have embraced the enemy, we’ve fed the hungry, and we’ve gifted the poor – for a day. I’d like to suggest the real honour comes in the chance for us to carry on with those feelings of good will, charity, and kindness 364 more days. That might just bring a whole lotta grace to the whole world. It is worth a try.