The meatballs are browning in the pan, “Acoustic Christmas” album playing (on CD in my “boom box,” of course), twinkle lights and candles shining everywhere this Christmas Eve morning.
I’m holding my Nana close in heart as I cook this simple dish she made for us hundreds of times. She’s not with us this year, yet she is.
Soon I’ll pop these meatballs in the oven, light my Swedish Angel Chime, and look through the Christmas cards and letters once more before I vacuum the floors and set the pretty table.
This afternoon, the family will come over and the cousins will pile on the couch to watch “The Polar Express” with popcorn and puppy chow and hot cocoa. The kids will be sugared up and the dogs wound up and the house will be destroyed again and for a few hours everything will be just as it should.
I’m not saying it’s easy or perfect. We’re a little sick and a lot messy. The walls are smudgy and the windows never got the fall washing they needed. There’s a giant honey extractor still in my kitchen with jingle bells now hanging around its neck. And we’re 100% gonna cry a lot of tears over our first Christmas without Nana.
I’m just saying we’re in it together. Of all the things we’ve learned these past couple years, I hope the thing I never forget is that we’re here to take care of each other.
God could have written out the rules and loved us from afar, but that’s not who He is. He’s flesh and blood. He gave us one another to hold hands and sing hymns and feed hungry mouths.
He gave us palpable hope in a humble stable wrapped in simple blankets, delivered amid the smell of animals and earth and sweaty, weary travelers. He gave us hope that can be held in our arms and passed around in our homes. We still need it, and we still have it.
If you’re alone tonight, come over. Sit at our table and scratch our dogs’ ears. Drop powdered sugar on your chin and on the rug as you pop another pinch of puppy chow into your mouth. Feel the warmth of belonging as the wind whips outside the window and the flakes fall sideways. Ride to Christmas Eve church with me — we’ll laugh and curse about why we live where the air is so cold it hurts to breathe.
Sing “Silent Night” from the pew beside me. Light my candle with yours and I’ll light my neighbor’s, and the whole place will shine with the hope of Christmas.