By Maggie Jones
Walking about the house on Christmas morning, I attempted to name whatever it was I was feeling — the ghosts of Christmas past, the loneliness of Christmas present, or a himmering* that there is a bigger picture and more to life than what is inherently present. I brought light into the darkness by turning on the Christmas tree lights, lighting a candle and starting a fire in the fireplace. Settling in with my dog and the day’s first cup of coffee, I let the feelings cover me like the handmade blanket that warmed us. Thoughts continued to blink in my brain, and feelings poured into and out of my heart. Advent had been meaningful, Christmas Eve unique, and now Christmas Day was here. Now what? The coffee was too good to drink alone, and the feelings too overwhelming. It was clearly time for a phone call.
We don’t always see each other on all of the “high holidays.” In fact, we usually don’t get together on the expected days. We have become extremely countercultural and feel absolutely no musts in our friendship. For many years we did exchange gifts. In fact, I was wearing the still-bright-red robe she had given me one Christmas more than 20 years ago. But our conversation was as warm and delicious as the fire and coffee. We journeyed to the usual subjects, checking on where all the children were and the time spent with them, traveling on to our extended families, a little about ourselves and finally the usual destination — the presence of God and learned experiences of the bigger picture. I told her of the cool wind that had moved across my cheek when I went to light the candle earlier and asked if she thought it might be a form of presence of a ghost.
“I’ve heard that a kiss from Mother Mary can feel like a cool wind on your face,” she told me. I looked up at the candle burning on the mantle and saw the light himmering* on my statue of Mary like sunlight on a field of snow. My heart smiled and I knew what I was feeling this Christmas: the nearness of God. It was the same feeling I had experienced throughout Advent. God in all places, in my feelings, in the light of my home, God in relationships, and God in the hope and possibility of what my friend was offering me. The possibility that Mother Mary had kissed my cheek was a bright and beautiful gift, and I smiled at the inward knowing. I realized also, as I have many times in the last 40 years in knowing her, a true friend is a gift from God. When the phone conversation ended, and with a heart so full, I could do nothing less than to offer the two gifts back to God wrapped in prayer. With gratitude, I thanked God for the gentle love and companionship of our Mother Mary. Then I sent a time-traveling prayer 400 miles northward and thanked God for the himmering* gold in my friend.
*New word created by my friend and me. Meaning from hint and glimmer; meaning a subtle sparkle. You will recognize a himmering when you see it.
Maggie Jones, BCC, ACHPC, is a chaplain at Christus Santa Rosa-New Braunfels near San Antonio, TX.