The quality of mercy is not strained,
It falleth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath,
It is twice blessed… (Shakespeare)
That eerie stillness of a house invaded by midnight has taken the cold air round me as I sit in this full-moon lit silence. I’m tired as all get out but my brain is just about as tightly wound as my ringlet curls (courtesy of my being in a Victorian era play), so I thought I’d say hello to you instead of crashing into bed just yet. I was in my eighth straight performance tonight of the musical Scrooge: The Carol With An Attitude – I’m having the time of my life. I’m a townsperson and caroler and also have the distinction of being a “Fezziwig” dancer, which means I get to dress up in a golden ball gown sort of thing and prance about stage as I have dreamed of doing since I was twelve and first saw the old Pride and Prejudice. I haven’t been on stage for a musical in over ten years, but I’m loving this so much that my fellow caroler regularly challenges “writer or actress now?” You never know.
Speaking of writing, thank you for your lovely, encouraging, rejoicing-along-with-me comments on the finish of my book. You’re such a lovely group! I’m glad to have time to think of other writing projects and just whimsy again – which hopefully will find its way here more regularly. One of the first sets of posts I intend to create in January is a postcard tour of the England trip. I decided to put it off until then because first, I think it would be lovely to have a bit of travel spice to spruce up the starkness of January’s chill normalcy. Second, because to be honest, I can’t find the memory card with my pictures on it and need to retrieve them from my mom’s computer. And third, because I kinda want to write about my Christmas thoughts during Christmas.
I get contemplative this time of year. Can’t help it. Candles and choral music and daily advent devotions do that to me. But I have an especial sense of wonderment glinting in my eyes and catching my soul this year, forcing me to write. I feel even younger than I usually do this Christmas and it’s because, well, I’m happy. A simple thing, I know. It’s as if some formerly dead bolted door of freedom has keeled open in the past two months, freeing me from some very old griefs and letting me wander into fresh realms. I have some abrupt new graces in my life; downright captivating new friends, a college acceptance (more on that later if I decide to pursue it), writing possibilities, and even a redeemed confidence in my self. I’ve traipsed through the last few weeks with this sense of life burgeoning around me, I am full of thankfulness, I walk with a sense of possibility, as if the very molecules of air around me were expanding to contain my joy.
And yet, at the back of all this happiness, I regularly spot a streaking shadow of fear. He’s there in the background, a darting sprite that haunts my joy, familiar to me as my own face. I wake up in the mornings with this sense of excitement but then a catch that starts clicking locks again on that door in my heart as I wonder “will the joy last”? What if today ends the good streak? What if all these people that I’m learning to love fade out of my life as swiftly as they appeared? What if God wants me to suffer again? And the air around me contracts, limits itself to the confined expectations I hold regarding God and how nice he wants to be to me. I had one of those mornings yesterday.
But I got up, brewed my vanilla tea, lit my three red candles, and opened my advent devotional, God With Us. Flipped to the page of the day and found the Scripture reference. Obediently opened my Bible to Isaiah 35 and read this:
The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy… Encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble, say to those with anxious heart, “take courage, fear not, behold your God will come with vengeane, the recompense of God will come, but he will save you.” Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy, for waters will break forth in the wilderness… the scorched land will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.. a highway will be there, a roadway and it will be called the Highway of Holiness… The redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion. With everlasting joy upon their heads, they will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Listen to that, listen to the cascading, rushing, flooding song of joy that pulses in those words – God has come and with him every possible good. He has come to heal and renew, to set dances to spinning and laughter to trilling, desert hearts and places to burgeon with springtime color. How could I read those words and not let me heart expand back to its joy? I began looking back at the other verse references throughout Isaiah and the Gospels and what I found all at once, what my heart remembered, is that every Christmas passage in the Bible adds its voice to this mighty crescendo of joy, this shouted proclamation that against all odds, expectations, and just deserts, God is coming to redeem us and recreate the world in a dazzlement of peace and beauty and celebration. By his grace, I am tasting just a smidge of its goodness in my life at this time.
But the only possible way to respond to that, to honor this unfettered love is to continue to expect good. To drive out that demon of fear and rejoice in who God proclaims himself to be, what he delights to give me. This Christmas, the first thought on my mind is that God is profoundly gracious, and second, that the only way I can honor such lavish generosity is by choosing to live in the belief that his grace will greet me at every corner. To live with hands cupped, face tilted skyward as if Shakespeare’s gentle rain of mercy were my portion. To exist in a state of mind that is so thoroughly convinced of God’s unstinting generosity and miraculous kindness that my heart daily expects to discover some new treasure. That’s not to say that I don’t know very well indeed that I will find struggle, grief, loneliness again. It’s more of a way of orienting myself to this life of mine, choosing to recognize what is the ultimate truth of Christmas: God is incredibly good. God is unspeakably loving.
I find though, that as I believe this, my life begins to reflect it. I recognize grace in places entirely unexpected. It makes a little girl of me again- I’m getting back my child’s heart. But more on that soon. For now, I wish you a Christmas goodnight from the wee sma’s of a windy, moonlit house. Catch that joy my friends. Grab it by the handfuls, let your soul rediscover the abundant goodness of God in this beautiful season. A very sleepy goodnight to you all.