So tomorrow is the Christmas Tea, our church’s annual ladies’ event. Guess who’s speaking?
Tonight we set things up, the miles of garland, enough lights to reach from Colorado to California, plates enough to stack to the moon, all things glittering, all things white, all things shiny. We worked, and worked, and all the while staring down at us was the podium where tomorrow I will have an asthma attack and try to say the right words.
Every place is set for some woman unknown to me to sit, and lightly laugh, eat scones, sip coffee. Every chair is waiting for a story I don’t know. And I am tangled in ribbon and plasticware and ornaments, details — I am so bad at details — swamping me, a thousand things to forget.
I want to forget, really, want to let go of the to-do list and focus on what matters — those women with their stories, pausing for a moment to look up at me — what will I tell them? And I want my words to soar like O Holy Night, so that by the end, we all fall on our knees in wonder.
What do you say about Christmas that hasn’t been said? None of it is new. And all of it is new. Because the ancient and the sacred and the well-remembered will still collide with new people in a new place on a new day. And the woman who just slammed the phone down, mad, will hear the old story in a way she’s never heard it before. Long lay the world in sin and error pining… And she’s pining at that moment like never before. The woman who just found out she’s expecting — that baby in a drafty barn will sound different to her new-mother ears than ever before. O Holy Night.
So maybe I can breathe deep and say the familiar words and not worry about being shiny or new. Maybe Christmas is shiny enough all on its own.