Christmas Eve. I guess that this means I’ve made it through one more holiday journey. It is true that Christmas day is still on the horizon, but I’m of the opinion that it’s mostly a day of recovery from the previous twenty four of madness. Yeah I know there’s still one more holiday left before it’s all said and done, but don’t even try to put New Years in the same sentence as this day. New Years Eve is like the evil twin. It’s like, “whatever happens New Years Eve, stays in New Years eve”. What happens tonight, I want to keep as memories for the rest of my days, quite unlike the shadowy visions that are certain to haunt too many of next weeks celebrations. It’s kind of coincidental how these holidays fall exactly a week apart. What I mean is that It’s kind of like the cosmic choice one has, to either live by the power of our own resolutions, for the three weeks that they may last. Or we can live by the power of the gift that arrived on this night so many failed resolutions ago.
I can’t wait for tonight. Tonight should be about peace, anticipation, children, and candles. OK so maybe children and candles should not be in the same sentence. That would undoubtedly create some memories, like smoke, big red trucks and endless insurance red tape to be sure. I’d rather not carry those through the year. So I’ll adjust the memory to children accompanied by responsible adults and candles. I really think that you have to have candles though or it’s not Christmas Eve. We tried to have candles outside one year for a Christmas Eve service. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Let me share from experience though, candles, outdoors, December, and Seattle should never be in the same sentence. I wonder what the weather was like on that first Christmas Eve. I wonder if Mary and Joseph had candles.
OK, so I may be guilty of glamorizing Christmas Eve just a bit. After all my children are grown, and time has certainly airbrushed out the carting around of sugared up little cherubs through totally unreasonable expectations of schedules and in laws and church. I just wish that I could remember how we did it before the days of mini-vans, SUV’s and totally portable nurseries. I guess that we had to do it the old fashioned way…with duct tape ,rope, and bungee cords…uphill…both ways…through the snow…but we were thankful. Maybe mine was really the “Greatest Generation” after all. At least I’m pretty sure the snow was real.
And regarding snow…I’m still of the opinion that Christmas Eve without snow is totally lacking. Liquid snow doesn’t count either. For eight years now I’ve heard, “at least you don’t have to shovel it”. I’ve even found myself slipping in to that insipid form of denial. At least I don’t have to shovel it? I still fondly remember Christmases past that I wasn’t soaked down to my underwear and they all included snow in it’s natural state. Hand me a shovel. Rain doesn’t reflect Christmas lights very well, unless its through the smear of old windshield wipers. Rain doesn’t glisten in the sunlight when the clouds pass. Rain doesn’t hang on evergreen branches like Santa’s beard. And when it snows, at least I can ride my sled screaming down a hillside. It’s not quite the same as December rains and riding a house screaming down the mudslides. You really should have snow on Christmas Eve. I wonder if Mary and Joseph had snow.
If I were to travel back, Scrooge like, with my own ghost of Christmas past, I’m sure that some of it would be totally unrecognizable to me. There are things there lost to a selective memory, and things I wouldn’t be proud of even if I could recall them. I’m sure that there were moments created that caused me amazement and wonder and I merely left them in the trash with the paper and the bows…we didn’t recycle back then either. I’m guilty, along with Hallmark and centuries of religious artists, of glamorizing the whole birth event I would guess. I don’t acknowledge the pain, anxiety, sounds…human and otherwise, smells…human and otherwise, the darkness and fear that were all probably in abundance that night long ago. We see clean clothes, well behaved animals, clean stables, and halos. We see a well scrubbed angelic face sleeping peacefully in his mothers arms. Think about it, any woman who has ever given birth knows that they don’t just appear when they’re ready. Mary may have conceived without a man but the Book of Books doesn’t say that she gave birth without pain. Now that would have been a miracle.
So today on my 44th Christmas Eve I pause to wonder. What was it really like? I love the mystery and the magic but I ache for the reality. What was it really like? In the emotion of the real event did they know? Was there peace knowing that God was indeed with them? Did that mute the pain and the fear and the loneliness of the cave? Did the baby bring them hope? Did they see Him for who He really was? How difficult was it to hang on to the promise? Did they know like I know that tomorrow would bring them rest? Did all of creation pause for just a moment when He drew His first breath and when His cries pierced the night? Did the stable animals yield their cries to His? Did the angels bow low to see it? Did God smile proudly like I did at the birth of our children? Were there cigars? OK, so I don’t wonder about that?
I’m just wondering. What are your thoughts today as you read this? Have you even stopped to think about it or are you crashing through another holiday trying to keep up with the Jones’s, Nintendo, and Microsoft? Will tomorrow or any of your tomorrows bring you rest? No matter what we may have done to His holiday, (or dare I say Holy Day) through culture and politics and time, this day did, in fact, come. It was real. There was sacrifice, there is a plan and it began with this baby. Celebrate the day. Honor it with time and thought and decision and wonder. You know, there really has to be wonder on Christmas Eve.