Christmas comes to the woman in withdrawal
at the Strafford County House of Correction,
and my ninety-seven year old parishioner
in the nursing home
whose toenails haven’t been cut in six months.
It comes to the beagle who bays at the skunk,
balsams and frasiers leaning wrapped
against the fence in the Christmas tree lot,
and many children who also – for some reason —
have not been chosen.
Christmas comes to the shoppers who pause
to listen to the bell-ringing
and put a little money in the kettle.
It comes even if they do it
because someone is watching,
and it comes even for those who never stop.
Christmas comes to the man
who mourns his wife,
and to the woman who mourns her mother,
and Christmas comes to the wife and the mother –
differently, of course –
less fruitcake, more angels.
Christmas comes to pageant planners
and the soldier deployed.
It comes to the little girls in the Nutcracker
and to a previously unemployed man
who grows and powders a beard
because mall Santas
earn more with their own facial hair.
Christmas comes whether we are ready or not;
it comes whether we want it or not;
it comes whether we used to believe,
or try to believe, or are afraid to believe.
Christmas comes with presents and with absence.
It comes as expected,
and it comes as a nearly unbearable surprise.