Sunday was the first day of Advent which for Episcopalians, like me, is supposed to be a season of quiet expectation leading up to the glories of Christmas. It is totally opposite of the secular frenzy that started before Halloween this year. I'm never very good at Advent discipline. I've tried having my own quiet time to read and meditate. I'm sad to say this usually puts me to sleep. For 3 years I actually led an Advent group study at my church. This was waaayy out of my comfort zone but I felt like I got a lot out of it. I was able to really focus, for at least an hour once a week, on being still.
Advent came right on the heels of finishing up my month of gratitude. Since I was on a pretty good roll, I decided I'd try to weave a kind of advent expectation into my December posts. It won't be so much from a religious point of view as just a way of taking the sights and sounds of this festive season, in no particular order, and thinking about how they all go together as we head for Christmas morning.
You may have already noticed, that I didn't conceive this idea until after I wrote last night's post on music. Oh well, it will work itself out - I hope.
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Sometimes I surprise myself at how bold I can be. I had a friend who referred to my "boldness" as being "nosey"! I'm not good in a crowd of people. I hate cocktail party small talk. I'd much rather go one on one with someone over a cup of tea. That said, I struck up a conversation this afternoon with a perfect stranger in the grocery store parking lot.
I pulled into a spot. Directly across from me was a car with a Christmas tree tied to the top. It was all tied up in netting but it didn't look like a huge tree.
Every year we have this friendly family debate about whether or not to have a real tree or use the sadly misshapen tree that rests in a box in a closet for 11 months out of the year. It doesn't quite smell of mothballs, but it also doesn't smell the least bit piney. But lets face it. Real trees are cut way too early, so they are on the verge of being dried out when you buy them. Not to mention the cost. Those green fir (read - prickly) boughs and balsam scent do not come cheap. The final, and most convincing, reason not to get a real tree is the dried up needles that get stuck in the carpet. There comes a point in every housekeepers life, when she says enough is enough. For me, it is still vacuuming up Christmas trees needles in June.
The main reason to go artificial has got to be convenience. The Christmas season has gotten so busy, frantic really, that it's just easier to haul the box out of the attic than to gather the family together, go to the tree lot, make a joint decision on ONE tree, then tie it up, bring it home and put it in a stand. All that and it still have to be decorated!
Oops, I got sidetracked!
So this woman was sitting in the car with the tree on top. Her window was down, so, as I passed by I asked her where she got her tree. She told me the street and said she got a good price - slightly under $50. (Right then I opted for the fake tree.) I commented on how you could already smell it.
The woman's face lit up as she began to tell me a story that made me think .... this is what Christmas is all about. She had just gotten custody of her grandsons - 4 year old twins. They'd never had a Christmas tree. She was going to give them one. I wish I could describe the smile on her face. It was like an angel's. I felt myself smiling. "God bless you," I said as I walked away. But I'm pretty sure he already had. Strangely I felt blessed, too, by a freshly cut tree and a grandmother's smile.
Wishing for you chance encounters with heavenly beings. Expect a miracle!