It’s the first week of December and I swear I am trying. I really am. I so much want to feel that infectious enthusiasm that Elf shows over and over again on cable TV, but every year, I fight my natural inclination to be way more like King Theoden. I’ve never been one of those people who rush to turn up the holiday music and decorate the tree. I drag my feet. It could be because I was a musician for so many advent/holiday seasons that I just saw it differently…from the backstage point of view instead of from the seats. Surely if Christmas had to wait for me to throw myself at it’s feet, it probably wouldn’t happen.
Where are you Christmas? For me, this year, it isn’t in planning a Christmas concert, a musical, advent anthems or cantatas. And this is a pretty big change for me. It’s also opening up some time in the month of December to seek it out in new ways and places. And what I discovered is that Christmas, as it turns out, is a PRETTY BIG DEAL 200 miles west of me in downtown Chicago.
Now I’ve always enjoyed visiting Chicago but I must confess that in the 6 months since my daughter moved there I have fallen in love with it. My visits to her are my way of trying on the big city life. The people! The skyscrapers! The trains! The noise! The food! The entertainment! I am like a girl in love when I am there and I find everything about it so very exciting and beautiful! And Christmas…as my husband and I were about to find out, Christmas, is simply bigger there.
And so, we pulled on our winter coats and made sure that we brought along our hats, scarves and gloves and we set out to find Christmas in the windy city. It was cold, but it was beautiful. So many Christmas trees to exclaim over, so many beautiful and clever store windows to shop. The Christkindl Market at Daley Plaza even made us feel as if we were in a German marketplace. The Chanticleer Christmas Concert at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue was simply perfection. Christmas surrounded us and was as much a part of the landscape as the many people on the street, the tall buildings, and the traffic. We had found Christmas and it was in Chicago.
Window shopping ^
Tree spotting ^
Macy’s, Peninsula Hotel, 4th Presbyterian, Chanticleer ^
We brought it home. Christmas, that is. On the drive home we switched Sirius/XM to a holiday station. We started our shopping list. After we unpacked our bags, we dragged the boxes out of the attic and started decking the halls. And….it was fun and it felt right. I was feeling a bit more like Elf and a little less like King Theoden. So it begins…Christmas: that often frantic, sometimes poignant, but ultimately beautiful and promising season. It won’t be perfect in my household; it never is. But it can be good enough. A reminder to spend a little extra time with family and friends. An opportunity to revel in the beauty of what we can create when we put up a Christmas tree, give that one special gift, make those delicious cookies, prepare that meal with extra care. A time to pause and reflect on why we work so hard every December to light up the darkest time of the year.