This December was incredibly rushed for me this year. I felt like I spent the whole month running from urgency to urgency ... grading, family events, grading, cleaning, and more grading. December is always a hard month for me, but this December seemed particularly rough.
My goal was to get all the "stuff" done by Christmas, so that I could take a real break from life with my family and be totally present with them. After adjusting some expectations (like the fact that household decorating just wasn't going to happen, and that unbalanced checkbook will just have to wait a bit longer), I got everything done by about 4pm on Christmas Eve.
At our church's Christmas Eve service, as I was standing around waiting for the service to begin, I was struck again by a thought I've had on several preceding Christmases. Jesus came into a world that largely wasn't looking for him --- or, if they were looking, they were looking in all the wrong places. And, yet, Jesus came anyways.
I beat myself up regularly over the fact that I never seem to be able to joyously participate in the Advent season; I wonder why I can't seem to get past the "tyranny of the urgent" that fills my December.
The good news is: that doesn't matter. Jesus came anyways. The historical reality of the Incarnation doesn't depend on my recognition of it. Jesus loves me, even if I'm unable to recognize it or respond to it as often as I should.
And that's the moment of relief I needed this week.
"Waiting for Godot", perhaps? It's just felt like that sort of year --- doing the same thing, over and over again, but not really having any sense of how the next day will be any different from this one.
Patriotism is weird for me. It's not that I don't appreciate all the wonderful privileges I have as a US citizen. But my allegiance to my heavenly kingdom often puts me in conflict with my loyalty to my country. And so many public displays of patriotism seem to fall into either jingoistic displays ("America, love it or leave it"), or thoughtless rituals ("yay, Independence Day gives me a 3-day weekend!").
Having said that, my favorite place to visit is Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns. This year, on a field trip, my daughter got to participate in a wreath laying at the Tomb. Can I have a patriotic feeling by proxy?
I know I've probably said this in a previous posting, but it's worth saying. I'd go back to the AP Computer Science Reading.
I rave about my association with the AP Computer Science program regularly. This year was especially meaningful for me. For what seemed like the first time, I realized that I really belonged. Don't get me wrong; these people are wonderful, warm, welcoming, and loving folks, and have been since the first time I entered the group. But this year, for whatever reason, I was able to receive that love in ways I hadn't in previous years.
As others have said ... 5, maybe? I don't know how to answer this.
Is it weird to say that I'm not excited?
So much of my life --- in all of my different roles --- seems reduced these days to "do the task in front of you". I don't have any overarching vision of what I'm supposed to be accomplishing. Maybe that's because the things in front of me are, in fact, the important ones. Or maybe I'm missing something.
Having a grand vision of the future isn't something that is guaranteed to any of us. And so I feel a little odd complaining about not having that grand vision. If I force myself to sit and think about it, I live a good life, with many daily blessings.
But I miss that feeling of wanting to jump out of bed in the morning to start the day because amazing things are coming.
The culture wars over the holiday season, including the fake "war on Christmas", are yet another reason why it's hard for me to enjoy December anymore.
But on Friday, a marvelous thing happens. I can say "Happy New Year" to anyone, regardless of their religious or political persuasions, and not have to worry about causing offense.
Happy New Year, y'all. May your hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.