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Christmas at last Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It's finally Christmas.

I know I'm joining millions of 8-year-olds around the world when I say that, but I don't mean it the way they do. Nor do I mean it in the same sense as the parents of said 8-year-olds.

I say "it's finally Christmas" because, for me, it finally feels like Christmas. It only took until about 11 o'clock on Christmas Eve.

Unlike in years past, when I've gone home or at least taken time off work, I didn't do anything particular this year to mark the approach of Dec. 25. Here in Portland I don't even have snow to remind me that it's winter.

(Sorry, no new photos for this post. I might take something tomorrow, but I might as well give that its own entry. Meanwhile, enjoy this image of last year's tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland.)

To be honest, Christmas basically flew in under the radar this
time around. The advent calendar that my mother faithfully sends every year suddenly jumped from 4 to 19 in the blink of an eye. In my world, the week of Dec. 24 has been an awkward space on the calendar when you couldn't be sure who would be working or when the stores would be open. I did do a bit of Christmas shopping, but haven't sent those things off yet. And at this point, I'm not sure it's worth decorating my 3-foot tree.

Today (Dec. 24) was basically a work day for me, albeit a pretty slack one. I didn't really do anything productive this afternoon.

The festive season finally turned around for me tonight when I went to church.

I happen to live about 3 blocks from Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Trinity is a large limestone building dating back a little over 100 years. Inside, it's a pretty typical church in the Anglican tradition. One thing that does set Trinity apart from many other churches I've attended, though, is the quality of the music. In addition to an amazing organ and wonderful organist, they have a dedicated Director of Cathedral Music and, for tonight's service anyway, a choir of more than 40.

The service itself, of course, is literally by the book. One of the most common criticisms of the Anglican family of churches is the routine, rote nature of the services—"McServices," one might say—which follow the same patterns from week to week and are virtually uniform from one parish to another. But, for me at least, there is something very comforting in the tradition that the church embodies.

Dressed in a blazer and tie, and sitting on a hard pew near the back of the packed cathedral tonight, I listened to the same words I've heard nearly every Christmas I can remember: "In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered...".

Instantly, the four strangers beside me became my parents, brother, and sister, dressed in our Sunday best and out way past our bedtimes on the most exciting night of the year. And when we sang the second verse of "Hark! the herald angels sing," I looked over and shared a knowing look with my brother as the author forced us to rhyme "womb" with "come." Though they weren't actually there, I smiled knowing that they were doing exactly the same thing in a different place.

When the service ended around 12:45 I stepped out into the cold night, half expecting four feet of snow on the ground. The light drizzle brought me back to the West Coast, but I knew the Christmas spirit had at last come my way.

So wherever you are, Merry Christmas—it's finally here!


AudreyLinden said...

Merry Christmas!!

Love, Matt, Lila, and Audrey

Sebastian said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family!