“But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The Shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. I was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2: 19-20 NLT)
Yesterday morning at approximately 6:25 AM one of our cats decided to sit outside my bedroom window and whine. Buddy, the long haired “stray” that we’ve gradually turned into “Our outside cat” wanted to eat. I grudgingly got out of bed and fed him, then climbed back into my now cold sheets and tried to get back to sleep.
It didn’t work. I finally hauled myself out of bed about 8:10. I looked out the window and sighed heavily at the sight of the snow covered road. I had to be to work at 9:00 so there was no time to mess about or have a cup of coffee.
I was annoyed. I drove to work, white knuckles all the way. However, I arrived on time and without incident, only to resign myself to my third straight 9 hour day on my feet dealing with cranky last minute Christmas shoppers. Somehow though, I managed to do pretty well yesterday after praying that the Spirit would bless me with a little extra grace. I had no cranky customers and managed to give, and receive, a lot of Christmas cheer. I walked out the door around 6:00 PM, knowing that I had completed my 18th year of Christmas in retail. I was pleased.
Then it hit the fan. My uncle Greg, who is having a lot of trouble following treatment for cancer had been taken to the hospital, and I was very worried for him and my aunt. This peaked a bit once I no longer had work to distract me. Then somebody ran me up on a curb before I even got out of our parking lot. Once I made sure my tire wasn’t jacked up I got back in the line of traffic. Ugh. People blocked the intersection outside of our parking lot through back to back light cycles. People started honking and raising middle fingers. Merry Christmas.
After breaking through the worst traffic I finally hit a back road that I use and managed to work my way home. The snowplow had been by so I had to dig the bottom of the driveway out. Yay. Then I decided to get the snowblower out and do the sidewalks.
The snowblower and I don’t see eye to eye, in fact we’re archenemies. I wrangled it out of the shed, followed all the instructions, and to my great surprise it started right up. Thrilled to death, I bulldozed my way out of the backyard to the driveway. It was ON. Then, as soon as I got to the driveway, it died.
There aren’t words in the English language to describe my frustration and anger. It was if one month’s worth of stress exploded as a steady torrent of obscenities streamed out of my mouth at full volume. After nearly 10 hours on my feet at that point my feet were experiencing a new definition of the word pain and I was just done.
I came in the house, reeking of gas and exhaust (and hungry since I had nothing to eat all day) and my family couldn’t calm me down at all. My transformation to Scrooge was complete. However, soon enough Dad arrived and we went out to eat. I got some food in my stomach, stopped shaking, and calmed down. He also told me what I was doing wrong with the snowblower. After we got home I was able to get it working and complete the sidewalks. I was relieved, and exhausted. I finally took a shower then relaxed staring at the flames on the candles of the Advent Wreath.
I needed a “Silent Night.”
Many of my Christmases tend to go like this. Working retail over the holidays just plain sucks. The truth is, it’s never really Christmas for me until we are gathered at church, raising lit candles, and singing “Silent Night.” It’s my favorite tradition.
I think back to other traditions. We’ve done the Advent Wreath as long as I can remember. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these memories of me, my mom, dad, and sister gathered around the wreath every night are treasures to me that have no equal. We also used to take banana nut bread and treats to neighbors, shut ins, and older folks who couldn’t really get out. We’d go caroling (nobody carols anymore) and one year I even played some songs on my trumpet. Sometimes all the neighborhood kids and families would gather at our house to bake cookies and do an Advent devotion. It was our way of being a witness in our area.
My grandparents used to winter down in Arizona, and when I was young they would come back up for Christmas and after we’d opened our gifts we’d all gather at their house for more Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I remember my aunt Cindy being very pregnant on Christmas, 1989, and then the next day my cousin Holly was born. That is special too. We’d also go up to my dad’s parent’s house, a farm in Morgan, Utah. I remember being hypnotized by the snow covered fields and mountains. I also remember taking a hayride through their lower fields, which was fun, but not so great afterwards due to my allergies!
I think about these splendid memories, and I wonder if the feeling I get is like the one Mary got when she would look back at that night when she bore her first son in a stable, attended by shepherds and her husband. After everything her and Joseph had been through: the mysterious pregnancy, the long journey to Bethlehem, and the struggle to find lodging, I bet they also needed a “Silent Night.”
Over the years I’ve come to realize that not only is Christmas not about the gifts under the tree, but it’s not about all the annoying things and times that I have to put up with in the weeks leading up to it either. Christmas is about those memories, and those treasured hours with family and friends that can never be duplicated.
But most of all, I know Christmas is about that moment. That moment when I lift the candle in the church and sing a song that often brings tears to my eyes, that moment when once again I feel the power, the love, the simplicity, and the paradox of the Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh.
I hope you experience wonderful times with family, and the wondrous love of Christ this Christmas and everyday going forward. God Bless.