This past Friday started quietly. Soft pajamas. A mug of tea. A visit with a friend. My television stayed off. My phone remained in the other room.
So at first I missed the news of the shooting that happened 15 minutes from my house. The 5-hour ordeal that left the community shaken and three families grieving and shattered.
That was what my mind was consumed with when I walked into my basement Friday night to get my Christmas decorations. I stood under the bare bulb and looked at the four plastic bins overflowing with nativity scenes and glitter. Snowmen and burlap. Pine cones and sequins.
I couldn’t do it.
I sat on the cold cement floor, snow piling up in the window well behind me, and I dug through those bins, desperate for something that would make the cold and darkness flee.
In 15 minutes, I hauled one plastic bin upstairs. From it I pulled candles and glass dishes of Christmas balls. I placed them side by side on my coffee table, and the silver ornaments grabbed the flickering light, multiplying and magnifying.
I placed more candles on my kitchen table next to a simple nativity scene. Light of the world, flanked by delicate flames, quivering but bright.
On the mantle I wove greenery dotted with red berries. Life and growth. On the windows, green wreaths silhouetted against gray, snow swirled sky.
The last step was the Christmas tree. I knew I needed a real one. One that would leave my hands sticky with sap and my home perfumed with pine. I dragged it in the house, crusted with snow, its limbs pulled tight against the trunk.
I needed to see that tree come to life. To watch its branches slowly unfold. To wind white lights among the green.
O come. O come. Emmanuel.