We finished taking our Christmas decorations down this weekend. It was an all-day job, taking the ornaments off two trees, wrapping them in tissue, taking the trees down. Putting away the rest of the knick-knacks (I put some things away last week), taking down the cards from friends, vacuuming up all those fake pine needles.
It feels good to have everything back to 'normal.' However, the one thing about Christmas that I have a hard time letting go of is the music. That may sound strange in a day when radio stations and stores start playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. And I am pretty sick of the snappier Jingle Bells, everyone and their uncle's rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and I could go my whole life without ever hearing Santa Baby again.
But, the real Christmas songs, the hymns, are the ones I never tire of. Last week I was driving home from work and it was already dark outside. A few houses still had Christmas lights on and their Christmas trees glowed in the windows. From the DVD player in my car, strains of What Child Is This sung by Vince Gill, filled the car.
I thought of what it must have been like for Mary in the weeks following Jesus' birth. When the hubbub in Bethlehem had died down, what was it like in the months that followed? Scripture doesn't give us any details about how long the Holy Family remained in Bethlehem, and scholars have a variety of theories about it. But, regardless of where they were, I imagine that for Mary the time with her newborn was spent much like it is for most mothers. Cradling him in her arms, in awe of the miracle of his birth. Feeling his warmth and smelling the sweetness of his head. Singing him lullabies that, to our own ears, might sound much like Silent Night or Away In A Manger.
I think back to the times when my kids were newborns and being with them in the middle of the night was my favorite time. The quiet of the house, the absence of any kind of distraction, it was just me and my baby, and nothing else in the world mattered. After the rush of Christmas, when things calm down and everyone around me goes back to a normal routine. . . that's when the songs of Christmas really speak to me. I appreciate the peace that they bring.