Like you, Iâ€™ve noticed the days getting shorter â€“ and not just the hours of daylight. The actual 24 hour cycle is getting shorter, as we hurtle from the calm eddy of our countyâ€™s brief experience of Autumn into what we call the Holiday Season.
It was only a few days ago when the trees were showing off. I noticed the chinaberry trees in bright yellow robes â€“ startlingly bright â€“ in yards all over town. And the cypress treesâ€™ needles were just starting to rust. Then the winds blew one night and these splendors were dumped in halos on the ground around newly naked trunks â€“ looking like discarded bathrobes â€“ and it seemed Fall had fallen until I remembered we still have some maples showing and the red oaks have yet to blaze. The pecans and sycamores are littering the ground just now with bran-colored drifts. Still, the sight of millions of cypress needles dusting the river made me realize it was time to gird for the onslaught of the hardest season of the year.
Our old black mailbox groans daily with catalogs of delights â€“ most beyond our means, and certainly all beyond our needs. Weâ€™ve been offered clothing (lots of clothing), fruit, travel, books, gadgets and whatnot, all presented in vibrant color, all with guaranteed delivery by Christmas, page after page of gifts. The stack of catalogs weâ€™ve received this month alone is more than two feet tall.
Iâ€™ve seen, on my way home from work, delivery trucks parked in the dark, their headlights on, delivering gifts. This must be a tough time to be a driver for the parcel companies â€“ and the volume will continue to grow, swelling like a crescendo, until the last few hours of Christmas Eve â€“ as entire mountains of gifts pour from their tributaries right to our doorsteps.
In all of this haste, all of this shopping, all of this worrying about budgets and finding the right thing for that difficult-to-shop-for friend, amidst the travel and houses full of family, the grumpy uncles and the weepy aunts, itâ€™s hard to remember this time of year offers some beautiful opportunities.
Churches will offer special musical presentations, opportunities for worship and service. Several local charities will be collecting gifts for the needy, and all of us will find appeals in our mailboxes from worthwhile groups. While many of the appeals ply on our sense of guilt (Iâ€™m thinking about the seemingly endless fundraising efforts of a San Antonio radio station), a precious few of the groups will offer a chance to share in the hope they bring to others. To those it is easy to give, and to give joyfully, if in secret.
Overhead Iâ€™ve noticed the moon dancing farther and farther away from bright Venus in the sky. A few weeks ago the moon, just a crescent, seemed close enough to the shining planet to touch it. As the gap between them grew, the moon grew fuller and fuller until it got so bright several friends complained it was interfering with their sleep. I guess the approaching holidays are like that â€“ as the noise and spectacle of the holidays grows bigger and bigger, until it seems to occupy all the available space of our feeble attentions, it gets more distant from the simple single light that is the reason for the holiday in the first place.