Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Morning Thanks--My own first noel

Truth is--and I'm proud to say it--my wife's gift is somewhere in the mail. I'm way ahead-of -time on that one. And it's a dang good choice. Not only that, but this year she's not going to know what it is before Christmas because I'm keeping my mouth shut. She's not going to know until she opens it and it's nothing she asked for, so in every way it'll be a surprise, and that's rare and that's good.

But I haven't thought much about Christmas.

There's a tree planted--so to speak--in one of our garden boxes just outside my window, a nine-foot reject from my daughter's attic. I put it out last week already, and it blew down the first night so I piled up a bunch of boulders beneath it, stuck in some stakes and wired it back up.

Hope springs eternal. 

I can't imagine that prairie winds won't tame its temerity--and mine. The lights are bad, all green with an odd white girdle. I've got to do something about that, if the old thing stays up.

That little candelabra up top stands in my window down here, an old plastic thing from the 40s, I'm sure. But its age and history make it priceless. It belonged to my wife's grandparents, and I'm blessed to have it down here next to me. She put it up a week ago already. I love it. Isn't it great?

That does it, really. Upstairs, there's a wreath on our front door and a few things around, here and there. There'll be more, I'm sure. We've got ourselves a tree the day after Christmas, but we haven't decorated yet. That'll get done.

We're not big Black Friday people, never have been and probably never will be, so that passed largely without notice.

What I'm saying is we hadn't done Christmas yet, not that we're off to a late start. We'd had a first snow, but still--it wasn't even December. I didn't think we were far behind.

And then came Sunday. The church up the road was full of Christmas trees. Someone spent serious Saturday time getting the sanctuary Christmasy. It was nice, but no big deal.

But then the organist started in on a prelude-- "The First Noel," and when she did she just about took my breath away. Simple old carol, no huge chancel organ, no inspiring cathedral, no Mormon Tabernacle Choir--just a few bars of "The First Noel" and I got planted far more sturdily than that shaky nine-foot tree outside, right there in the heart of Christmas. 

No precious old stories rise mystically from the bars of that old hymn. I didn't flash back to a living room moment long ago around a tree or the Christmas Eve my parents hid a J.C. Higgens 26" bike, with streamers, behind the couch. Nothing like that. In church on Sunday morning, in that quiet time before things really start, it was just the idea--"the first noel," no caps, no upper case, the old hymn became very much my own carol. And it was good. It was very, very good.

Advent, I know, is supposed to be all about waiting, but right then I felt far less anticipation than deliverance. It's been rough on everyone, this whole election season, very difficult. We've all taken a beating. I have, and it's still not over. 

But Sunday morning in church on the chorus of that old carol--you know, when the line reaches way up for a moment?--right then, my heart broke into its own"The First Noel" because once upon a time in a old town barn outside a cheap hotel in Bethlehem, an unmarried girl, little more than a child, tired and beat from travelling on a donkey, gave birth to a King who still last Sunday made all things new--old candelabras, reject trees, and beat-up pilgrims.

All of that in just a few blessed bars from the chorus of "The First Noel." This morning, this brand new Christmas season, I'm thankful for the first noel.

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