This year I'm feeling more Jewish than usual, even though I'm technically a Christian. Maybe it's because I'm decorating my house with lights one day at a time. Tonight I placed a white star light in one kitchen window, facing the Sacred Heart Catholic Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel.
I had set up the manger a few days ago in the room where I write, but it lacked something, so tonight I added holly entwined with red shiny beads and a cluster of blue lights, like stars all around the stable. I kept knocking down the shepherds and Joseph, but all is peaceful now in their small world.
Growing up, we weren't allowed to put Baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning and the Wise Men and their camels had to be placed across the room, slowly moving towards Bethlehem each day until Epiphany.
I kept that tradition and even my husband likes to watch the journey. It's a motley group; over the years, my mother adds the wrong sized camels or sheep that are too white, souvenirs of her trips to The Holy Land. My favorite is a girl shepherdess, carrying a tiny lamb, wrapped in a blanket behind her back, high on her shoulders.
We don't have a tree yet because of my stacks of notebooks, papers, and books, laptop, and general disorder. Today is the first night of Hanukkah, when real Jewish families light the first light and remember the miracle of the oil burning, the rebuilding of the Temple.
But none of this explains the feeling, the need for symbolic light, the need for light in dark corners, the need to prepare my house and heart for a day of celebration when I don't feel like celebrating. Maybe it's been too much delving into the past or too much putting words into sentences and sentences into stories. Maybe it's me thinking too much like a mother, identifying with the young mother who 2000 years ago watched her son grow up, knowing his life would be short, knowing his voice would not be understood, knowing that he would go off into the world, as young men must, only to be crucified.