My family has a tradition of writing Christmas stories. Here’s one of mine from a few years ago.
Christmas in Cold Blood
Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos 4:48am GALT (GMT -6hrs)
An hour and five minutes before sunrise on December 25, 2011
The sun is rising. It is still dark but he knows the sun is rising. Soon the dark horizon will blue at her edge and the lowest stars will begin their daily dim. The slow breath of his brethren presses against his flanks. The very slow breath of his very cold brethren can not be heard, only felt under the roar of wave on rock that surrounds them.
He lies there motionless as the darkest hour begins to pass. Tangled together with the rest in a heap on the rocky shoreline, he anticipates the blood that will flow. Through his limbs it now trickles but soon it will course.
He understands the light. He knows to wait. This takes time. He cannot rush it. After all, he has no choice but to wait, but though he is old now, he has not yet grown accustomed to this morning ritual–this longing for first light. It happens this way always, and yet it happens that he always fears in the final hour. While all his brothers and sisters sleep in torpor he wakes and waits. He understands the light, it’s effect on his cold blooded body, but he has also understood the darkness. He had been created to miss this hour of cold in slumber as his snoozing family brethren always do, but for reasons he does not understand, he always wakes. He experiences each morning trapped in his frozen body. Fully aware. So he is the only one who knows that the sun is rising.
“It must” he thinks, “Or I will die.”
As he works through his regular morning anxiety, the earth spins, and the waves crash, and the light grows. Below the sky’s black melts some blue, and just above the water-lined horizon an orange seeps upward–a very deep, reddish orange that sings in heraldry of great light.
“Aah. At last!” he sighs to himself. “It comes.”
But the wait is not over. The sun is a slow one. At least to him. Though it is quite fast in the grand scheme of things, he perceives it as slow because he is trapped in the darkness and has been so all through the long night. And in the darkest hour, frozen and alone in waiting for his cold death the grand scheme seems irrelevant. The grand scheme is irrelevant to the one who lays dying. And, though it happens this way every morning, he has never shaken those death thoughts. How can he forget with his heart beating this slowly, with his lungs inflating this little, and yet, his mind so alert?
But he understands the light. He recognizes its effect on his body and he waits for his frozen feet to be warmed. He waits for the sun to activate his receded self. The deep orange has now climbed a quarter of the sky. The blue has taken the rest and only the brightest stars still shine through the veil of dawn. Below the orange, there is more red and the wisps of clouds high above in the blue reflect back this redness in pink.
Already he is thawing, but the wait is not done. How he wants to flick his tail, to grip the rock beneath his feet, to be unlocked! He aches for it to be done. And then, it is. The sun jumps over the horizon with a dazzle of rays that hit him with a jolt of pleasure. Each one of his black scales squeals in delight. He is the first to raise his head to meet the long expected light. His brethren follow and form a chorus of attentive faces turned to greet the morning. The long darkness is over and their bodies will soon spring into action. His core of heart-beating, lung-expanding warmth spreads through him from the center. The light penetrates him and awakens him fully. His blood is warming.
Some time basking in the sun passes and his body is now sufficiently warmed for his charge. He climbs out of the tangle, tromping on heads, shoulders and tails to the edge of the rocky cliff where they have spent the night. His blood is coursing now. He’s as hot as he can be–enlivened, fear gone, ready to do what needs to be done, which is to dive into the breakers to forage algae below. The island is so scarce that the sea bed is the only place for food. Even though it means braving the tumult of waves, the jagged rock, and, worst of all, the freezing ocean current that chills him to the bone., just like the infinite night He can only withstand ten minutes in the frigid depths before he must fight his way back to shore. Somehow this cold is invigorating, while the cold of the darkness is frightening.
“I guess it’s because I know it’s right there.” He reflects as he looks over his shoulder at the shining sun and hoists himself back onto the rock.
He lies down spread eagle on the rocks to be re-warmed so he can digest his belly full of food. He is reassured by the warmth on his spiny back. He is safe underneath a blue sky lit by a great light.
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
Beloved, may you long for the Christ light this year as much as I imagine marine iguanas long for the dawn. May you understand the Light of the World in your hearts, yes your blood pumping hearts.