There are good Christmases, but none perfect, because the “not yet” of Christmas is never totally immersed by the “already”. Because the cosmic template of the feast, the original Christmas event, was a dire, frightening “not yet”.
Unwanted pregnancy. Destroyed love affair. Angels giving out impossible assignments. Reputations trashed. Futures gone. Leaving home, huge pregnant. Uncomfortable travel, to a place not chosen. A birth, horribly timed. No place to rest. No place to put the baby. Relying on the kindness of strangers in a strange land. Uninvited guests from foreign countries. The news that soldiers are searching for the baby to slaughter him.
What could be more “Not yet” than this story, against the background of some vague promises from angels that this would be a wonderful experience? There’s never been a more empirically disappointing Christmas than the first one, and that’s our template. We’re meant, by a mystical bond with the liturgical template, to experience the “not yet” against the longing of the “already”.
So the experience of Christmas never quite ascends to the vision of Christmas, which, like all visions, is made of just the bright shiny bits with the dark seams of the original, and even the disappointing memories of our past holidays, always dropping away. It’s o.k.; follow the star, and figure it out. .
So I snap back to the start of it all, where the angel appears with greetings – “Merry Christmas”. We now know that what the angel actually said was “Merry Christmas, figure it out.”