It was eerily quiet as I descended the stairs this morning. It was dark and I could hear the gentle plopping of the raindrops on our skylight. The house is so quiet early in the day; even our dogs are still asleep, although my cat is quietly following me down the steps. As I step off the last stair, I reach for the switch and turn on the lights of our Christmas tree. The room seems so bare and empty now. The presents are gone; all given away and stashed in the arms of their receivers. The room holds our son’s remains of college along one wall (I covered it with a red and green Christmas tablecloth) and our boxes of books line another wall (also covered in tablecloths of the season) but other than those things, it is filled with our tree. And I sighed as I looked at the sight. The lights reminded me, once again, of the Star over the Stable in Bethlehem, which guided the Wise Men. And I recalled snippets of conversation, smiles on the faces of our family, and the pitter-patter of the feet of four dogs, running around their owners, along with the smells and color of Christmas. And I smiled.
Last night we shared a meal at the friend of my husband’s brother. It was at a little Italian restaurant in a city north of us, owned by his friend’s father and mother. It was interesting, in that it brought together such a disparate group of people and yet, all you heard was laughing and story-telling, and the delicious aroma of some amazing pizza and bread sticks! I could live there very contentedly! We all so enjoyed one another’s company and some excellent food. And then we had to say our goodbyes to my mother- and brother-in-law. It was strange; we were all quiet on the drive home. The pounding rain also made it hard to hear one another, but there was silence as we contemplated the ending to our sharing Christmas Day with our family members. We continue to celebrate Christmas through to the Epiphany, when the Wise Men journeyed across the desert sands in search of the Newborn King. When they arrived, they knelt in worship before Him and gave Him gifts….that is when our Christmas is at its peak! The first recognition by the world that our Sun of Righteousness is here, as New-Born Babe! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Troparion (a Type of Byzantine Hymn)
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of Wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee, The Sun of Righteousness!
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, Glory to Thee!
Kontakion (a Type of Byzantine Hymn or Refrain)
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him!
Wise men journey with the star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a little child!
And even though our family members are flying home today, they share a journey with the Wise Men, who sought Him Who would save us all. Although they are not physically with us, just as the Saints who have gone before us, they are with us in Spirit and in Prayer. We all await the moment the Wise Men walk to the Cave, to honor and worship at the the Bed of the King.
I am sad that things are winding down. We still have the New Year to ring in and share with some dear, dear friends who we treasure. So I will not “clean up” Christmas until well after the First of the Year. But as I stood this morning, looking out across the wonderful view I have of the golf course, the reality of time moving on hit me. Because when I put away all the lights, the garland and the bows, when our tree is removed from the house and cut down to be used as firewood, the task before me will be to pack up and move our family to another home. And it will be, once again, in keeping with the Seasons of the Church and our Liturgical Calendar. It is so weird, odd, freaky, and at the same time so incredible, awesome, and wonderful, how our lives mimic the movement of time within the Church. Because when we relocated here two years ago, we traveled with the Holy Family as they made their way to the Manger in Bethlehem. And this time when we move, we will be traveling with them, as they made their way to safety in Egypt. We will, quite hopefully, be relocating and starting a new life as did the Holy Family. This time, I am praying we can set down some sort of permanent roots, where I can really unpack and stay a while. We all get to that point where we live in the house we will die in. And with all the celebration of the Birth of Christ, it is hard to think of the Death of Christ, but without His Death, His birth would have been just another Baby in a Stable, born to homeless parents. Even though the Holy Family had to cut short the joy of celebrating the Birth of Christ, the Adoration of the Shepherds and Magi, they ventured out to a new life in Egypt. Thanks be to God, our journey is not that far, but a journey it is, nonetheless. I pray for an Angel to whisper the will of God to us, so we choose the path he has laid out for us. As I wind down Christmas and relax a little bit, in the quiet of a dark and rainy morning, I contemplate these things and I am filled with joy and hope, and even longing….God is good and we are Blessed. And the lights on my tree are there, twinkling their glowing message, showing me still, the Star above the Stable….