I don't shave my legs regularly any more. I no longer wear stockings or pantyhose every day for work, so the need to have smooth flesh under nylon is obviated. I left that dubious joy with the demise of my publishing career and my 20s, which oddly enough coincided at nearly the same time, give or take a few weeks. That was also when there was at last the prospect of someone of the male persuasion seeing my legs bare. I am currently sans a man, so that option doesn't really come into play right now. On the plus side, there's no one I have to clean up for either. And it's winter, when having an extra layer is not such a bad thing. Come the summer, I'll employ my once-a-week regimen again, but I've got at least 5 months before I have to embark on that.
These days I save the contortions required to epilate for the rare special occasion when I might enjoy that extra bit of girliness. Such an event occurred this past week on Christmas Sunday. We, the church choir, were singing 2 choral anthems during all 3 of our church's Sunday morning worship services, which begin at 8:30am. As we do on Easter Sunday, when we face a similar worship marathon, we have a brunch for the choir and orchestra to enjoy in between the early services. I always try to make what my family calls the Long Hill Chapel Easter/Christmas casserole; it's an egg, cheese, bread, and sausage casserole with a can of cream of mushroom soup to add a nice tang. Out-of-this-world yummy.
I grew up at Long Hill Chapel and during my teenage years, my mother was the Hospitality Coordinator, basically coordinating any and all church social events from funerals to the annual mission's banquet. Big church = big job. Easter Sunday at Long Hill began with a sunrise service at 6:30am followed by brunch for those hearty 100-200 people who made it out in what was usually a really cold morning. This casserole is one that is made the night before and cooked in the morning. So while we were all singing in the sun with Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Mom and her cast of fives were cranking up Long Hill's industrial stoves and cooking casserole so we could all dive into it when service ended around 7:30. These days I make it for Christmas morning for Mom and I and I always bring it to the choir Easter and Christmas brunches where it's a big hit. (Two years ago, I wrote the recipe out for so many people at church and work [I made it for my account's Secret Santa breakfast] I can make it by memory now.)
I, however, do not have an industrial oven (though my new apartment's oven is a vast improvement on the archaic one I made due with in Weehawken), so for a 7:45am call for the 8:30am service this Christmas Sunday morning, I was up at 5:30 to heat up the oven and get the casserole in so it could cook while I showered and got dressed. At that hour of the morning - really at any hour of the morning before 10am - I can barely contemplate consciousness much less add light to the equation. Ergo, I was showering in the dark, as usual, except for the nightlight, and, for some reason, decided that this was the right time to shave my legs. How hard could it be? I've been shaving since adolescence; it's not like I didn't know the motions intuitively by now. Besides, with enough shave gel on my legs, all I needed to do is follow the latent smears of gel to see where I'd finished and where I'd missed, right? Like a CSI Luminol test only for epilation. I mean, the gel is white after all, why else but to be able to see it in the dark?
It wasn't until later that day, post services, back at home when I was lying in bed with the kitties, pre-nap, that I ran my foot up my smooth leg - and found it, perhaps, in retrospect, unsurprisingly not so smooth. In fact, there were easily 4 or 5 patches where my modus opershave didn't quite do the job. That'll teach me to shave at 5:30 in the morning when I'm fool enough, or Polish enough, to do it in the dark. Still, no harm, no foul, no one but me and my Creator was the wiser. He's present for all these whackadoodle moments in my life, so I imagine it's not totally unexpected by now. He's there for the singing in the sun moments too. As well as those more poorly lit times of life, which, frankly, have been known to overshadow the sun singing parts.
These are some of the things I think of during Christmas.
Christmas never ceases to amaze me. Celebrating Christmas as a believer means to look on the stable scene and see not only a baby, but a redeemer. We cannot hear the angels announce His birth without noting their absence at His death. We cannot see the shepherds and wise men attend Him without remembering all those who abandoned Him, including ourselves. So many non-believers think we're nuts and foolish for believing in what must appear to be as real as something Hans Christian or those Grimm brothers dreamt up; it's certainly as bloody as any of those fairy tales (the original versions of those stories are gorier than a Dean Koontz novel). It is a fantastical story after all, no less so than for being true. But what they fail to see is that it is the weakest of us, the most flawed and vile that come to this stable, not the golden and perfect ones. We are the ones falling prone at the cross, overwhelmed by the love that hangs there in our place. It's not reserved for the special and holy, though they are there too, I guess, somewhere hidden by the rest of us rotten ones. We don't stopped being flawed and sinful simply because we accept Christ, in fact, we're often more aware of the missteps and failures we continue to make and be along the way. But we are then blessed to see a hint of the time when we will be special and holy as we were meant to be all along.
So we come to the manger full of awe and broken and sinful (that would be me), we lay down at the cross filled with grief and guilt and overwhelmed with selfish gratitude that we ourselves don't hang there instead (me again), we gape at the empty tomb, joyous and dumbfounded and unworthy and flawed and nasty and damaged with full knowledge that we will be all those yet again (hi there!) and we are shown grace and mercy and unfathomable love over and over and over again. Unfailing, Unending, Incomprehensible Love.
Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel has come.