I was awakened early one December morning to the sound of the telephone ringing. It was the recorded voice of the school superintendent calling to say the words every child longs to hear… “School is cancelled today.” An early snowstorm had swept through the New York suburbs overnight and had suddenly interrupted our plans for the day. Ugh. I had packed my day with work and errands in order to maximize my time before the school bus returned. But all that was not meant to be. My daughter and I were stranded at home for the day.
I lit the tree, made my daughter’s favorite breakfast, sat down with her and our dog and there it was…a glimpse of Christmas right before us…Love breaking through the hurry of life, suddenly changing everything. All of my cares were erased in that moment. There was something sacred about it all.
I flashed back to the same time last year. I had come home from work ready to start preparing for a Christmas party at our house. As I was on my way downstairs to send the babysitter home, I noticed the ham I ordered had arrived and was sitting on the floor. But I also noticed something wasn’t right with the box. It had been torn open on one side and the foil was ripped. Upon further examination, I noticed a huge chunk of it was gone. My eyes slowly moved across the room to a very guilty looking dog that was licking his chops and looking very thirsty. That’s right; our dog had started celebrating early and had eaten a quarter of the Christmas ham. Ugh. Fortunately, the ham company cheerfully express-mailed us another ham in time for our party and we had a great laugh about it all.
But Christmas isn’t about the parties with half-eaten hams or the errands to buy all of the gifts people need or don’t need with money we have or don’t have. The spirit of Christmas breaks through unexpected moments and turns our worlds upside down. Think of it. Mary most assuredly didn’t plan for her life to unfold as it did. The Christmas story speaks of a baby born to her, a surprised teenager, in a lowly stable. She didn’t have nurses or fine medical care. Barn animals were the first to greet the Christ child, followed by some smelly, awestruck shepherds who came because they had been told by some loud angels that this baby had been born. Mary most definitely didn’t count on the visit of the three kings bringing gifts from faraway lands, or the heavenly host shouting out “Glory to God in the Highest!”
When I think of the ordinariness of the characters of this story, I realize, the story of Christmas is not removed from our everyday lives. Something in us relates to it all. It breaks into our ordinary lives with extraordinary miracles: Promises of light amid our deepest darkness; promises of peace in the midst of our warring conflicts; promises of hope amid our despair; promises of love-in-the-flesh, and of indescribable joy. All of this– delivered, not in fancy or expensive wrappings, but in the form of a baby born in a stable.
How is spirit of Christmas calling you from the ordinary to the extraordinary, to see the miracles right before you? How is love trying to break through your busyness to create sacred moments with the ones you love? What lies within you waiting to be born this year?
Stop, listen, watch and experience. Christmas is calling you!