I'm not out and about much at night anymore. When darkness falls, I'm almost always home getting into my pajamas. Not for me the night life. My colleagues talk about driving overnight so the kids will sleep through the trip, and I shudder. I'm strictly diurnal.
So tonight when I go to the midnight Christmas Eve service at our church, it's a special occasion in more ways than one. For this even I venture out into a new world, one that's cloaked in inky blue-black and alive with islands of Christmas lights glimpsed from the street.
Tonight it's raining and cold. North of us there may be an inch of snow; we may see a dusting. The raindrops or ice crystals on my windshield will add their own prismatic glint to the light displays. Candles inside the church will shed extra warmth with their golden glow in contrast to the chilly colors outdoors.
I go to this service alone. The rest of the family attends the early service with the children's Christmas pageant. For me Christmas Eve, like Easter Vigil, is a solitary pause, outside of the normal routine in time and space. Rarely do the voices raised in winter song fail to bring tears to my eyes.
Then I drive home with Christmas Day a few minutes old and find the preparations for the next morning completed -- toys on display, stockings stuffed, everyone in bed. I sneak in for a few hours' rest before the celebration. Those midnight moments are like an intake of breath, held in conscious anticipation -- not just letting the day arrive, but keeping watch for its coming.