The star beckoned.
Uncharted terrain, bandits and unwritten tribal codes, regional airborne viruses—everywhere, monumental risk.
By night, they braved prowling beasts; by day, in town after town, the narrowed eyes of strangers.
Perhaps second thoughts eroded their confidence.
Is this the best plan?
Did I choose the right gift?
How will I make it through these days?
I’m asking the same questions.
Resolved to streamline our Christmas celebration, I started early, and simply, this year. Then succumbed—yet again—to moreness.
Shopping, wrapping, occasionally snapping …
Anxieties clone themselves, especially at 2:00 a.m.
It’s like running errand #183 just as a small rock strikes the side window. The point of impact spiderwebs, my whole outlook skews.
My soul under duress resembles a lake, subject to cycles of freeze and thaw. Sometimes, late at night, lake ice ka-booms and keens, as if a whale is trapped underneath it.
Come morning, a newly exposed seam zig-zags across the surface. A passing crow might read it as lightning.
Star-wise, another angle
“[A block of] ice splits star-wise,” Frederick Buechner writes, quoting Sir Thomas Browne.
“A tap of the pick at the right point, and fissures shoot out in all directions, and the solid block falls in two at the star.”
But this fragmentation I’m feeling exceeds the usual Yuletide madness. Anxieties over loved ones also derail peace and goodwill. Seems worries are a seasonal visitation … but not from above.
All around us trauma and heartbreak and outrage are shattering lives. Nature. Nations.
“Not now!” I want to holler. “It’s Christmas!”
Defined literally, the word disaster means “without a star” (Latin: dis, or “without” plus astro, star”).
In other words, groping through darkness, like my sister, post-op, fighting free of the anesthesia.
- A friend battles grief, stunned by a young man’s suicide.
- People I love struggle to process their grandson’s diagnosis.
- On their Christmas vacation, a riptide drowns the husband of my childhood friend.
Lying awake, I watch skies burdened with snow. Where is the guiding star when fears and sorrows and holiday pressures seem too much to bear?
“The Child is born,” Buechner says,” and history itself falls in two at the star.”
Wordless, I re-position my knees,
lay out my gifts … by which I mean
every last thing I am bearing …
present it all before heaven,
reaffirm my trust aloud—here,
now, as the star comes for me.
Friends, what’s helping you focus?