The last dusk before the marvelous day has come. Behind our Christmas tree, the bay window is filling up with light like blue velvet, it’s frame the pale curve of aspens with bare, frosted arms. Drip by drop, the daylight is stained with dark and the flow of night rises and spills into our house through the glass. Shadows crawl up the walls, reach with long, knobbly fingers across the wood floor. But not around the Christmas tree. Sword straight, arms stretched out to hold the thousand smalls stars in its greenery, our tree stands like a fighter in his own unbroken circle of light.
A sacred circle, that. I think most children know this. It is, after all, the place where presents miraculously appear. It’s something more though too. When I was small child, I’d sneak in alone to lay on my back, face stroked by fir branches, the scent of the needles like a heady wine to my senses, and I’d look up, up, up. Through a maze of fir boughs like tiny paths that led somewhere I wished I could go. Alive in thought, alert as if I’d stepped out of the ordinary into somewhere marvelously else, I’d stay there as long as I could. The Christmas tree was always the centerpoint of holiday wonder to me, the live, almost personed presence of the strange gladness that invaded my home once a year. In the circle of its light, sparkle, and scent, anything might happen.
It was the circle of possibility. I feel it still tonight. Sitting alone in this darkling room, I feel hope edge up to me in that light. I’m older now, all the unnameable wonder of being little and having a few toys satisfy my hunger is gone. I want a lot more now. Things like peace in my soul, love without conditions, the way cleared for dreams. But tonight, my eyes opened by the beauty of the room and hour, I feel a bit of my childhood wonder coming back, and with the insight of adulthood, I understand that at its heart is hope.
This season is a celebration of unchangeable things being changed. Of death being made into life. Of the eternal outcasts being reconciled to the One who will always belong. In this way, the Christmas lights are an echo of the light that fell from the Bethlehem star. Within the circle of that light rested a baby who was what Madeleine L’Engle called “the glorious impossible.” His birth remade all that was wrong into all that is right. It is that glorious fact I celebrate tonight two thousand years later. It is that impossible good becoming possible that is the reason for all our extravagant celebrations. Christmas presents appearing in the circle of Christmas tree light just echo the gift of a God baby born for us into a circle of starlight.
Christmas is all about the circles of God’s light which enter this world and alter the wrong. It is all about the impossible becoming possible. And that is where the wonder lies. It’s what every child senses, beyond the simple love of gifts, a great, impossible good looming up beautifully all about them. I want to enter that wonder again. I want to stand by the circle of Christmas tree light, and let my heart enter its world-altering ground. Light Himself has carved a circle of possibility into the universe, and its echo is in the circle round my tree.
So I’ll sit here tonight and rejoice.
May you do the same.