It's Christmas Eve, and I've had it. I've had it with the tacky decorations in the suffocating, overheated stores I've been trapped in. I've had it with tasteless Christmas ditties on rock stations. I've had it with worries about who gets what gift and how are we gonna pay for all this stuff anyway?
Right after Thanksgiving, I start to vibrate at a higher rate. My heart races into December, my mind swirling with to-do lists: stuff to cook, stuff to buy, stuff to wrap, stuff to hide.
And always, in the back of my mind, is the fear that I'm forgetting something essential: Did I forget to buy a present for somebody? Is there someplace I'm supposed to be right now? And I fear that the spiritual heart of Christmas has been completely obscured in all these preparations - and in my life. I'm afraid that I'm doing it all wrong. Everything.
Then, every Christmas Eve, just as I fear I will implode from the pressures of the material world, I hear a voice - a voice that's coming from my radio. The voice says, "...from the historic chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England, a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols."
I turn up the radio, sit back, and take a deep breath. Oh, right. It's Christmas Eve. I've done all I can do - or all I'm gonna do, anyway. This is the finish line.
The lone choir boy, his voice high and hypnotic, sings those first, haunting, notes of, "Once in Royal David's City," and every muscle in my body abandons the chase and relaxes.
The familiar Bible passages are soothing, reassuring, like hearing your mother read, Good Night, Moon, for the hundredth time. Only what I'm hearing now is, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
I could listen to that every night.
The choir starts in on that ancient carol, "Adam Lay Ybounden," with harmonies so intricate and delicate they break your heart. Music so gorgeous, I inhale it, savor it, hoping to capture this moment and hold onto it forever.
By the time they get to, "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful," hot tears are sliding down my cheeks. Why? How is it that happiness and relief bring tears?
I don't want this to end. I'd like to curl up and take a vacation inside my soul.
The final notes of the final song, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," fade into silence. And for the first time in weeks, I am calm, my breaths come slow and deep.
The whirlwind planning is over. For the next thirty hours or so, I will live in the moment: Be here now.
A space has been cleared. In this space I will remember who I am, remember why I'm here.
And, best of all, I will remember to fear not.