We miss them most, at this time of year, when they live so vividly in memory and dream. Oh, she would have loved you! we tell a new member of the family, I wish you could have known her.
Their place in history slips farther and farther away. They missed global warming and 9/11. They missed Harry Potter and the fall of the Berlin Wall. They thought Madonna was the Blessed Mother. They missed cell phones and computers in people's homes. They never had email addresses.
But we have them in indelible images. We remember their clothes, how they stood in the doorway, sat in a chair. We remember being around the table at Christmas, all of us, remember them opening a gift. We remember laughter. When pressed, we remember misunderstanding, too, but we prefer not to. Left to our own devices, we enshrine their times with us as a golden age. We are free to do so: they are not around to contradict us.
Insofar as they made Christmas for us, we were the losers when they left. Quickly, though -- very quickly, if we were parents ourselves -- we made it for others, and grew swiftly and firmly into our new role: Christmas-makers. We try to imagine them back, doing the things they did, some of which we do now. We would bicker about it, perhaps. We have come to enjoy our emancipation, and realize with something of a shock that they have lost their place among us. They cannot live here. They must remain in the past.
And yet they cluster all around the perimeter of our lives. They are never far away. They seem to send us love and power-- sometimes, they send love purer than any they offered when they lived as we live now. I remember them, and -- for a moment -- I feel them.
Hello, dear Everyone! Hello! And do you know that Christ is born, again? This very night?
Barbara Crafton will preach her Christmas Eve sermon at St. Luke's, 17 Oak Avenue, Metuchen NJ 08840 at 8pm this evening, and will celebrate and preach there tomorrow, Christmas Day, as well, at 10am.