The busyness of the Christmas season is winding down. Most of the planning, shopping, baking, decorating, and wrapping is done. We went to an early vigil mass this evening and sang all the old familiar Christmas carols, then came home to a decadent seafood dinner with shrimp cocktail, crab legs, and lobster tails. After dinner, we glanced outside and were surprised to see a picturesque dusting of powdery snow. How perfect!
After I finish this post, I'll probably settle down to finish one of my all-time favorite Christmas books, How Far to Bethlehem by Nora Lofts. I began rereading it last week, when I began to feel the stress and pressure so common at this time of year. I was definitely in a bah-humbug mood, and not getting more than a fleeting glimpse of that Christmas cheer we all try to feel. But this book has gotten me back on track and truly reliving the birth of Christ and the real reason for the season.
It is the Christmas story, retold from the points of view of many of the people involved, beginning with Mary and including Joseph, Elizabeth, Melchior, Gaspar, Balthazar, the innkeeper and his wife, Herod, and a shepherd. Each character is portrayed in such a realistic way that it's easy to grasp the true human difficulties and challenges they faced. Joseph finds his faith tested again and again, as he realizes that God is giving him spiritual guidance, but it is up to him to take action and follow that guidance. The story of Balthazar, who is portrayed here as a runaway slave, is particularly moving, as is the story of a shepherd, Josodad, who is struggling to get over the death of his own son on a cross and is about to commit suicide, when he sees the angels singing of God's glory, and his son among them. The book was published in 1965 but has been recently reprinted. I have always wondered if anyone else has ever read this book and found it as moving as I have. I was pleased to see many people felt the same way about it, according to the reviews on amazon.com.
I am looking forward to my long winter's nap (after I stuff the stockings) and a sleepy, quiet, happy Christmas day tomorrow. Hope yours is happy too!