Waiting for Christmas

Dec 3, 2015 by

Waiting for Christmas

During Mass last Sunday, our parish priest spoke about the season of Advent. The four weeks of Advent which lead up to Christmas are a time of ‘waiting‘, he said. A time of ‘preparing‘… a time of ‘coming‘. I’ve been pondering his words since I left church that morning. All around our little town in Northern Michigan, I see lots of ‘preparing‘ going on. People rushing through the stores, grabbing things from the shelves (50% off! Sale ends soon!), scoping out the best Christmas tree (Hurry before they’re all gone!), and decking their houses inside and out. Twinkle lights, giant inflatable Frosty snowmen, and red and green sparkles everywhere. Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming! The mad rush has begun.


Christmas Sale


And then there’s me. For the first time in many years, I don’t feel like rushing. In fact, I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m simply waiting. I no longer bake, and I quit sending Christmas cards eons ago. Meanwhile, I haven’t even bought any Christmas presents yet. The plastic tubs filled with Christmas ornaments are still buried deep under boxes in our garage. And while I know there’s a Christmas tree somewhere out there for us, it will probably be of the Charlie Brown® variety by the time we get around to buying it. But I’m in no rush. I’m in no hurry.


Charlie Brown Christmas Tree


I didn’t expect to feel this way, especially this year. It’s the first Christmas we’ll celebrate without my Mom. She died in March and I miss her very much. But my lack of usual enthusiasm over the ‘fa-la-la-la-la‘ of the holiday season doesn’t feel like ‘depression’. It feels… quieter. It feels… patient. It feels as if I am simply waiting. Do you think I’m wrong to feel this way? That I’ll be sorry I didn’t get moving sooner? That Dec. 24th is going to sneak up on me, and I’ll be stuck wondering, “What the heck you were doing, Kathleen?” But in my heart, I already know. It’s a stirring in my soul that’s calling me to peace, and it’s okay for me to feel the way I do. Each of us prepares for Christmas in our own way. Some of us bake, decorate, wrap gifts, and party-party-party…. but as for me (to paraphrase from Fr. Matthew’s homily), I’m preparing for Christmas in my own simple way. I’m ‘waiting‘ and I’m wondering. And I’m thinking about the people I love. The people who are no longer here, but also the family and friends still with me, who are such a precious part of my life.

And meanwhile, I’m listening to music.


Christmas Music


In 1872, an English poet named Christina Rossetti penned a Christmas poem titled In The Bleak Midwinter. Eventually it became a Christmas carol. One of my favorite artists, James Taylor, recorded it for a Christmas album released in 2004. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song, and I wanted to share it with you today.


In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, icy wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow on snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long and long ago.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim rising in the air;
Oh, but only Mary, in her maiden bliss,
Worship the beloved with a mother’s kiss.

Heaven cannot hold Him, nor can earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall fall away when He comes to reign.

What then can I give Him, empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would know my part;
What then can I give Him? I must give my heart.

Dec. 25

So as each day on the calendar brings us closer to Dec. 25th, this year I’m celebrating the season of Advent by ‘waiting‘ in the way that feels right for me. I’ll keep playing my music. I’ll sing while I’m at home, and sing while in the car. And every Wednesday evening I’ll show up in church for weekly choir practice; we’re learning harmony for new Christmas carols to sing at Midnight Mass. Meanwhile, I suppose the Christmas tubs will eventually come out, the tree will go up, and it will start to look like Christmas at our house, inside and out.

But in the meantime, I am waiting. I’m preparing in my own way. When Christmas comes, I will be ready… because I think I’m taking care of the most important part. For as I wait, I’m decorating my heart.


  1. Deb

    This is beautiful! While I’m not finding myself as quiet as you, this year feels different for me as well. I’m so much more focused on Christmas past this year. I’m tired of the rushing and the commercialism and the getting away from the real reason for Christmas. I’m disheartened that our church, yet again this year, hasn’t done any Christmas songs (those are for Christmas Eve) and there is no children’s play this year; the pastor’s sermon series for the next few months is about relationships and not the season of Christ’s birth.
    I find myself reaching back in my memory to the way things were when I was younger. Yes, we had commercialism then too, but at least there was a FEELING of Christmas, of peace and goodwill, and churches all observed some form of Advent.
    I started writing my own Advent devotional this year, and I hope to actually finish this time.
    A Peaceful Advent and a Merry Christmas to you!

  2. Kathleen Irene Paterka

    Deb, I know what you mean about ‘Christmas past’. It does feel like the holidays are different now. Perhaps it’s because we’re growing older? Maybe it’s a natural progression? To remember, to reflect on ‘what has been’ vs. ‘what is now’. I love the idea that you’re writing your own Advent devotional this year. You’re finding what works for you, and in a way, that’s ‘preparing a manger’ in your own heart. Merry Christmas! xxoo