I woke up early this past Thursday to bake strawberry bread. I plugged in the Christmas lights, put on Sufjan’s Songs for Christmas, and gathered the last ingredients from the fridge. Everything else I had laid out the night before, down to the bowls and spatulas and loaf pans. The night before, it felt like giving myself the best chance at actually getting out of bed at eight in the morning and baking bread.
But in the morning it felt like laying the table, like laying out that ancient truth of transformation for myself to see and experience before anything else. And seeing that potential for something new first thing in the morning changes everything. When the bread rose in the oven and the scent of strawberries crept through my apartment, I was reminded of parts coming together to create a new thing. Of what can rise even in winter, of the brightness of this season.
Once the bread had cooled, I made cream cheese frosting and spread it over the loaves, finishing them with some red sprinkles. I love the colors of Christmas—bright whites, deep cranberry reds. Pine green. I love the way they make me feel clean and new, like something is about to happen. Like this time is different than all others. Baking strawberry bread marks that time like so many other things do—Christmas trees, lights strung up around my front window, Santa dishtowels on the oven handle.
But it also brings me back to the table, to transformation, to waiting for it and calling it what it is when I see it. This season is a time when we see transformation everywhere—in cookies in the oven, a bare tree suddenly heavy with ornaments, a dark room lit softly when lights are plugged in.
This year I want more of those moments. We can give ourselves chances to find them, like laying out ingredients the night before or taking time to smell the tree before the ornaments are unwrapped. Pausing before tearing a gift open.
Because it’s the before and after of Christmas that means something—the waiting for Jesus, the longing before. The way everything is different after. The soul’s leap because He’s here.
Last year this was my favorite Christmas song, and this year it’s still echoing:
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
til He appeared and the soul felt its worth–
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices;
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
As bread rises in the oven on a dreary Thursday morning, so December begins and I feel like whispering more, keeping quiet so the new and glorious can find its way in. (Christmas came back, y’all!)