Merry Christmas Eve, my loves.

If you’re reading this, you made it to the final round of Jumanji…I mean, 2020. Congratulations.

I hope this post/letter finds you well.

I’m listening to the Acoustic Christmas playlist on Spotify–I highly recommend it–sitting on my couch. One of the most perfect Fraser Firs in the history of Christmas stands to my right, covered in lights and ornaments that twinkle. My hay guy, who also happens to be my Christmas tree guy, told me that his trees sold out much faster this year; what usually sells in two weeks sold in something like eight days.

I think that means that everyone was a little more ready than usual for a dose of Christmas magic.

This has been such a weird year. I know that all of you know that, but man, I’m amazed by all that has come to pass since I wrote my last Christmas post. For a lot of us, that weird year is going to end with a weird holiday. For me, tonight is the first Christmas Eve that I won’t be spending with my father’s side of the family. We usually play Bunco and eat lots of food and sing carols. This year we’re having a Zoom meeting.

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Last night, while waiting at the local Italian restaurant for (to-go) garlic bread, a family friend walked in. I used to babysit his kids, and I was actually in his daughter’s wedding, but he didn’t immediately recognize me in a mask. I said hi, but could tell that he was having trouble placing me. (Also, when I was regularly in his family’s proximity, my hair wasn’t pink, so there’s that too.)

“You’re…Ch…?”

He paused and almost said my sister’s name before I completed the word with my own.

“Cherity”

“I’m sorry. It’s just hard to tell with these masks.”

I nodded. Agreed. Smiled. But again, hard to say if he could tell I smiled, because mask.

We politely chit chatted for a bit as we both waited on our carry out. We exchanged hellos for our families. (“Tell your parents I said hi.” That sort of thing) He asked how I was doing. I replied with a perfunctory, “Doing ok, getting ready for the holiday.” He replied by shaking his head no in a world weary sort of way.

“I think, this year, we’re all just trying to figure out how to get by.”

There was nothing new in that sentiment, but I was thinking about it as I drove home. The way this virus is a very collective experience.

We, all of us, trying to figure out how to get by.

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Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about light.

Monday, the 21st, was the winter solstice. It’s the day in our year with the shortest period of daylight, and, consequently, the longest night.

The solstice is why we put lights on our Christmas trees. (Actually, Yule, the holiday of the solstice, is why we have Christmas trees at all.) The solstice is the time when we look for light inside, rather than outside. It’s when we carry the memory of light in an act of solidarity with the earth as she makes her way back towards it.

The solstice is our reminder that darkness always seems the most all-encompassing right before light starts to come back. And light always comes back.

I thought, too, about how so many cultures have celebrations of light, many of them this time of year. Christmas. Yule. Hanukah. Kwanza. All celebrate the light. All of them teach us to hold onto it.

This time of year, we celebrate the light that we cannot see.

This year is a really good time to celebrate light that we cannot see.

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I listened to Christmas carols on the way home from the restaurant. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel came on, moving through my shuffle. It’s always been one of my favorite carols.

It’s a song of heartbreak and joy, and I’ve always loved art that allows, as in life, for those two emotions to co-exist.

It’s the song of the end of exile. A song of redemption that begins with God and ends in us, no matter what happens around us. The name, Emmanuel, means “God with Us.” The carol is a celebration of a world where God indwells. Even when things aren’t perfect.

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Lauren and I did chores early tonight, filling up hay feeders and hay nets with an abundance of alfalfa, enough to get all the critters through a cold, dark night. We fed everyone, including our newest residents, two mini donkeys and three potbelly pigs who needed a soft place to land.

For me, chores are a measure of continuity. The way so many things stay the same even when the world is chaotic. The way that the world behaves according to its own rhythms. The way, every year, we do chores earlier in December as we wait upon longer days and more light.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all of the light festivals. The way they prove that we have more in common than not. The way that we all cling to the knowledge that light follows the darkness, regardless of our creed.

I find myself thinking of all of you, and hoping that you all are holding onto the light. It’s coming. The light will be here soon. In the meantime, the answer is always more love.

I pray that you take this holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate, to love your neighbor.

Your homeless neighbor. Your neighbor of color. Your LGBTQ neighbor. Your immigrant neighbor.

Remember that all of us are waiting, together, on the light. Remember that all of us, this year, are just trying to figure out how to get by.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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