and all through the house, the floors are gleaming, the glass is shining, the silver is laid out on the dining room dresser, the cherry pies are cooling in the cupboard and the pumpkin pies are baking, the downstairs tree glistens with green and blue lights, the upstairs tree with pink lights (guess whose tree that is?), and the presents are ALL WRAPPED.
Tonight my little crew of agnostics and I will go to a 7:30 service at the grand cathedral Methodist church we belonged to when the children were little -- we can't give it up at Christmas because of the candlelighting at the end and the raised candles, 500 strong, in the pitch dark sanctuary as we sing Silent Night. One Christmas Eve, I'd say just about 20 years ago, I spent much of the service pacing the hallway with a cranky one-year-old in a fuzzy footed sleeper in my arms. "Come here, Robin" whispered one of the ushers as the candlelighting began. He guided me to the door behind the altar so that we could watch as the entire church darkened and then began to light up, candle by candle, row by row. What a sight!
These days we tend to go up to the balcony we so that we can watch the same thing from above. Then we head to the annual Christmas Eve party hosted by adult friends -- some complaining from the kids this year, as they know fewer and fewer people at that event. And finally, a midnight service for those of us left standing -- usually just me and that young man who was once the cranky baby. The locale is up to him -- last night he said that he preferred the Methodist church for the atmosphere but the Presbyterian church for the preacher -- "of all these guys we've ever listened to, John is the only way who always has something worthwhile to say."
Tomorrow the gathering will be smaller than usual -- one family divorced and flung from from South Africa to California, one staying home to nurture the dad who just had hip surgery, one single mom who just wants not to do the family thing this year. But the four or five families here will eat and laugh and maybe even sing, missing the parents who used to join our circle and are no longer, and enjoying the college students who are here just a little longer.
Wherever you are and whomever you are with, I hope that your Christmas is a joyous one.