Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On the Ninth Day of Christmas

Holiday display - 5th Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn

How many pictures of lit Christmas trees can I post here on this site? Probably a lot. There are trees all over this city; the public plaza next to my office building is filled with at least 30 trees of varying heights. Our building has not one, but two, gigantic trees decorating the lobby. They are quite lovely, these office trees, outfitted with bronze and champagne-colored ornaments and ribbons. Bronze and champagne are, as you probably know, the traditional colors of this season, representing... um, I have no idea what they represent, actually.

And while I'm admitting ignorance, did you notice that error I made in the preceding paragraph? I used the C word! Christmas. Very uncouth of me. The tree in the Daily December photo above is not actually a Christmas tree. It's a Holiday Tree. (Note that the lighted display to the right of the tree is a menorah - not a generic candle-holder. Maybe the word "menorah" is not as offensive or exclusionary as the word "Christmas"?)

I guess I could get all bent out of shape about the banishment of Christmas from the public sphere, but that wouldn't be in keeping with my recent theme of thanksgiving. Also, I just don't really care that much. Whaddya think about that, public sphere? You can string up ornaments in every color but red and green. You can wish me "Seasons Greetings!" You can mask any possible religious reference with the all-inclusive word "holiday." It's fine by me.

Because the true heralds of Christmas remain untouched and unchanged. They're old, old, thousands of years old. Older than candy canes. Older than the 1950's-era snowflake decorations hanging on the lamp-post outside my window. Older than red and green wreaths, older than angels on trees. And they're my "good things" that I'm choosing to be thankful for today.

I'm thankful that I have the words of the Old Testament prophets, who sang 'Christmas is coming!' so long ago. I'm not putting up a Christmas tree this year, and the way things are going I probably won't get around to sending out Christmas cards*, but these ancient and relevant prophetic words are helping me prepare for, and welcome, the season in a different way.
"Comfort, comfort my people...prepare the way for the Lord...and the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it." (from Isaiah 40)

“Fling wide the gates, open the ancient doors, and the great king will come in.” (from Psalm 24)

"The Lord will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)." (from Isaiah 7)
*Now, don't get me wrong - I like a pretty Christmas/Holiday tree as much as the next person. And I like Christmas cards, Christmas lights, and you know I like Christmas cookies. It's just that these verses give me chills in a way that the traditional green-and-red trappings can't quite compare.

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