San Francisco is magical at Christmas. Stores are transformed into alluring worlds where every color, scent, discount and employee work to awe and entice you. The streets become bustling channels of humankind; a maze of stoplights, crosswalks and hurrying footsteps. And Union Square becomes the Christmas Mecca. Macy’s giant, brilliant tree stands looming before you twinkling and dazzling in the chilly night air. Children and adults alike laugh and wobble as they circle the nearby ice-rink, while bystanders sip hot cocoa and steaming lattes. The air is full of smiles, cinnamon and lights....hundreds of twinkling, magical lights.
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful!” -Norman Vincent Peale
I have been particularly in love with this Christmas. I continually surprise myself by how nostalgic and traditional I am this season...I want things to be as they have always been. I want every tradition to stay intact. I want us to snuggle on the couch, sipping peppermint hot cocoa, and watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Perhaps it’s because things are so very different this year that I’m so very nostalgic. Perhaps it’s because everything’s so different, I want everything to be as beautiful and warm and wonderful as my memories. And so far, this year has surpassed all expectations. I love this Christmas. So very much.
I love hearing Ruben’s laugh in the next room. I love making paper chains with Mark and hanging them in the doorframes. I love exploring Sacramento and the thrilling magic Christmas has sprinkled everywhere.
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” -Calvin Coolidge
Tonight was the candlelight service at church, and as we sat, surrounded by beautiful lights and majestic organ music, I felt so very small. It is exactly as Pope Paul VI said, “Christmas is the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly, let him rejoice.” The reality of what Christmas really is is so incredible and so powerful, and I can’t help but feel humbled and awed.
During the service, all lights were extinguished save the Christ Candle. From it, the pastor lit his candle then lighted the candles of a few others who then passed the flame to members of the congregation. One by one, as members lit each others’ candles, the light slowly spread. Yet still, the entire congregation sat in darkness but at the pastor’s welcome, hundreds of people lifted their candles into the air, filling the sanctuary with warm, flickering light. It was as if the stars themselves had found their way into our church and filled the sanctuary with their magical presence.
Ruben and I just finished stringing licorice on the Christmas tree. It’s been a family tradition for as long as I can remember and as far back in my memory as I can trace, I remember waking up on Christmas morning and finding hundreds of skinny strings of licorice hanging from the branches. It’s not always easy to find the licorice, few stores are selling the skinny kind now, but Ruben and I found a package at Raleys. We waited until everyone was in bed to open the package and string up the licorice. High and low, around ornaments and between lights, on branches and tossed up high, we strung the licorice. Tomorrow morning it’ll be a delicious surprise to everyone else. :)
Why are traditions so beautiful? What makes them so sentimental and important? Whatever it is, I have so loved sharing them with loved ones and making them a reality again this year. God has been so faithful to us and His goodness is overwhelming, especially now. I feel so incredibly blessed to be here, with a licorice-covered tree, paper-chains galore, an amazing family, and a God who loves me so very much.
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests.” -Luke 2:14