This is the first Christmas in a long time that I have spent away from my immediate family. Certainly it is the first without Thayet or Meshparjai. I did not go to Dickens Fair. My house is empty and undecorated. There are no presents here. I may not be able to stay in Charlotte. There has been little about this Advent that has seemed Christmas-y.
But Christmas is not about family, nor love, nor togetherness, nor cheer. It is not about goodwill towards men. Those are all good things, and worthy trappings for Christmas. But what Christmas is - what the Black Pearl really is - is praise.
This is not a plea to keep the Christ in Christmas. Even in its most traditionally religious incarnation, Christmas is already an abstract memorial of events and ideas that the Church finds significant. If other people want to turn it into an abstract memorial of other events or ideas that they find significant, I shan't object; it doesn't diminish the sanctity of my own memorial. But for me, what Christmas memorializes is the invasion, the return of the king ... the promise that I make all things new.
And while I love spending time at the holidays with my aliit (moreso, truth be told, than with my family in the traditional sense), and I love spreading Christmas cheer at Dickens, and I love spreading a sense of magic with decorations and presents, the one thing that Christmas really needs for me is a memorial of that epic moment, when the trap was laid for the great enemy and the powers of heaven rolled forward upon the territory of the prince of the air with all the thunder of the angels of the one whose thunder and trumpet terrified the people at Sinai, spearheaded all by the cry of a newborn.
I need the sense of remembering with others who are remembering the same thing, and are similarly moved. It used to happen with Xenophon over Christmas carols at my parents' house. Then I moved away, and some years it never happened. Tonight it happened at St. Mark's Episcopal, filling that old church with carols and invoking the weight of generations past. And at home after midnight, in this empty house with the lights off, thundering songs of praise.
I may, as it happens, be trading in my accustomed low church tradition for something somewhat more liturgical. But I think that my cathedrals will always be made of thunder and smoke, light and shadow: full-throated worship roared to the heavens, a vocal salute. Tonight I build one of those in this empty house, and the home is full.
And now it is Christmas.