Morning came softly, creeping in between raindrops, oozing around the windows and doors as cracks of light. The sky isn’t blue, but cloudy lavender, the air is cold and fat with moisture. Will it rain? Very possibly. Do I mind? Not at all.

My ex-Catholic-now-quasi-pagan mother and ethnically-Jewish-but-turned-secular-Humanist stepfather came to Christmas Eve mass last night. The service was simple, sweet, and relatively short. The creche was blessed, incense was smudged and clouded and shared, songs were sung, and at the end, we were given to-go cups of hot chocolate. Standing under the roof of the breezeway sipping hot chocolate a bit after midnight, while the rain pattered on the parking lot, we greeted the new liturgical year.

But it’s the birth of the new year in more secular ways as well. Oh, a bit late, even if the calendar stills says 2006, but really, the day of the solstice nothing changes, it’s now, a couple days later that there’s a feeling of hope and promise underneath the wet cold. A promise of days getting longer. A promise of greenery returning. A hope for a better world – that we can make this year better than the last.

Morning comes softly, in the easing of the hours of night, in the subtle change in the music of the earth, and even as I’m reflecting that if you go back far enough, it doesn’t matter if you talk about a blessed virgin in Bethlehem, or any other figure of motherhood from any other culture, as all are aspects of the same, representative of the same, the birth of the future, the eventual return of spring, I’m still smiling, and uttering the phrase on everyone’s lips today:

Merry Christmas

And echoing the sentiment of my 60’s-radical parents, in my most simple wish for the world: