Almost there; is it almost here?

Advent is a time of waiting. The word “advent” itself means “waiting.” Aside from the theological implications of waiting for the savior to be born, this time of year always finds me waiting for that moment when it feels like Christmas. Sometimes Christmas arrives at an unexpected moment in mid-December, sometimes when a congregation holds flickering candles in a darkened sanctuary and sings “Silent Night” to close a Christmas Eve service, sometimes when I go to see my family between Christmas and New Year’s, sometimes not at all. Past attempts to make Christmas show up have been unsuccessful. This year I’m still patiently waiting.

Today is Christmas Eve. I was out running errands this afternoon, including a stop at the grocery store before it closed mid-afternoon. It was a busy place, people everywhere, shopping carts in short supply, everyone apparently in a good mood. Any other time I would have been annoyed by how many carts there were to dodge in crowded aisles, but not today.

By way of a small Christmas miracle the check-out lines were short and I was able to start unloading my cart as soon as I rolled up to register 8. The cashier was a pleasantly plump woman of a certain maturity with white hair. Small reading glasses were perched on the end of her button nose. I would not have been surprised if her name tag had said “Mrs. Claus.” (It didn’t.)

She wished the customer ahead of me a merry Christmas, said hello to me, and started ringing up my purchases. After everything was scanned I swiped my credit card and signed my name on the little screen; she handed me my receipt. She opened her mouth, caught herself, and then wished me happy holidays. Sigh. Happy holidays? Must be some sort of corporate policy. But the guy ahead of me got a merry Christmas. Oh well. Not that I’d expect Christmas to arrive at the grocery store but stranger things than that have happened.

So I bagged my groceries; as I was loading the bags into the cart Mrs. Claus was finishing with the next customer. And she wished him a merry Christmas. So now I’m wondering if I was giving off an anti-Christmas vibe. I’m a choir boy, fer cryin’ out loud. I’m singing with the choir at the Christmas Eve service tonight. I do Christmas — and not the secular commercial version. Perhaps Christmas is avoiding me and instead of waiting for it I should go hunt it down.

In any case, I’m looking forward to standing before a candlelit congregation tonight as we sing “Silent Night” together and looking into the faces of so many people who mean so much to me. It chokes me up every time, and sometimes Christmas arrives in the tear that threatens to run down my cheek.

Our waiting will soon be over and the Christ child will arrive anew. As Advent becomes Christmas I wish you the merriest Christmas ever!

Glory to the newborn king!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinner reconciled!
Christ is born in Bethlehem!