Yesterday! I found it! No, no ... not that tempest in a teapot of an evangelical campaign from the 70's ... was Portland the only place that did that thing? There were bumper stickers everywhere that said "I found it" -- the idea was that people would ask what you'd found, and then you could witness or talk about the "four spiritual laws" and God's "wonderful plan for your life," and then send the person to any church that "meets your needs." (No way to sort out that nonsense ... walk away ... walk away ...) When I went to college in the Bible Belt, a group of kids always went "mall witnessing" (now, there's one for the Hilarity of Subculture-speak Dictionary!). The "I found it" Campaign was like that - only Pacific northwest style. Anyway ... that's not it.
I've found the Cozy. The holiday comfort and joy. The anticipatory sense of approaching happiness. The "spirit" of Christmas. That's what I've found. And I've found it in a dishtub of soapy water.
No kidding. Yesterday, in a house empty of people, and full of the sound of a very sappy holiday DVD, at a pace of quiet and leisurely contentment, I took my plastic dish tub from the kitchen into the living room and washed the windows and walls and electronic equipment (don't panic - I did wring out the rags and I did dry everything off) ... and all of a sudden, there it was. The Cozy. I've been coughing and tired and a bit stressed for the past month or so, and haven't really been eager to see the blessed season of Joy approaching. So I was surprised yesterday. But there was no denying it. There, in the minty green plastic tub of soap bubbles, was the blissful calm of waiting for the Birth.
I recognized it right away, you see. I know this one. It started its life when I was quite young, and it felt like someone whispering a secret in the dark. A really good secret. The kind of secret it feels better to keep than to tell because when everyone knows about it, they'll all be happy about it. The secret was all about the candles and lights on the tree and the presents in the wrapped packages under the tree, of course, but mostly it was about the darkness. At dinner time each night, the curtains on the dining room windows were drawn closed because it was really dark outside already. The usually relaxed twilight was shorter. The darkness sent us inside, where it was warm and light and where the scent of things cooking and the sounds of a family were held.
Later the Cozy could be felt from as far away as "cruising altitude" when I was flying home from college, on a plane more full of college students and military personnel than business travelers. In December, in Portland, the rain is chilly and nearly constant - or, it seems that way. The rain defines the city. And in the plane, on the way home one year, we suddenly heard the drops hitting the windows as we started our descent. The whole plane went silent - and then someone who sounded like a guy about my age, from somewhere across the aisles breathed out the magic words. "It's raining ....!" We all laughed in sympathy. We were all coming home.
Maybe that's what the Cozy is all about, really. Maybe it's about home. Maybe that's why the song "I'll Be Home For Christmas" has the immediate status of frank emotional manipulation. It's so blunt. "Home" and "Christmas" both in the very title of it!
It makes sense, of course. In the winter, in the northern hemisphere at least, the darkness sends us all indoors, and at the end of the work day, the people scurry home. And, in the winter, the Church begins the cycle again. In the darkness and quiet, the biggest secret ever whispered comes to us, and He was far, far from Home. In the quiet, and in the dark, and with the lowliest of creatures, the "creator of the stars of night" was whispered to us.
Yesterday, I found Him again - or, I should say, I heard the whispered promise of Him - I heard it in a tub of soapy water.