A day late due to the ice, but I’m just glad to be back down here this morning, even though the fireplace is not on. I promised my wife that I wouldn’t complain this morning about it, so it’s really just an observation. I wonder how it would feel to be enjoying this morning in Starbucks on the coldest, iciest day in 18 years with a fireplace that is actually working. I’m just wondering….anyway back to the cold and ice. It’s funny how, one of the most recognized stereotypes of Christmas, that being snow, can wreak so much havoc on a place that isn’t used to experiencing it at Christmas. I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying it, although I must admit the inconvenience in a place that is ill equipped to deal with it. After 3 days, our street remains a sheet of ice that 30 years ago I would have considered golden with a runner sled. Now I see it as a broken hip waiting to happen.
I think that it is actually nice. It had added to the ambience of Christmas. It has forced us to slow down. We have cancelled things at my community o’ faith that were well intentioned and probably would have been great fun, but instead, we’ve had more time at home with lights and friends and dogs and a cat and unending Christmas music and “It’s a Wonderful Life” on a big screen. It’s Christmas for goodness sake. What about the angels promise of peace on earth? I’m guessing that it came for me in the form of ice and snow which helped me slow down and enjoy the moment.
I do recognize that what has given me peace has done just the opposite of many who surround me. It has heightened the stress and strain of the relentless pursuit of “the gift”. Fortunately for me, my season began with my focus on “The Gift”, and its not wrapped in bows, it was wrapped in some form of cloth and placed in the feed trough of some hospitable stable animals in a middle eastern village.
Lest you think that this is another sermon on the “true” meaning of Christmas because it’s a natural part of my pastoral arts profession, I’ll leave that for Linus and Charlie Brown. It’s more of a journey that I’m on that any really “good” person in my profession, maybe should have arrived at years ago. I’ve spent years in pursuit of the really good gift, the worthy gift, the prideful gift. Each time I thought that I would get it right. Every yearly pursuit has left me coming up short and waiting for next years attempt. I look back and realize that I don’t remember them much at all. I don’t remember the ones I’ve given, or the one’s I’ve received with the possible exception of those that were actually labors of love. The ones made for me or by me with gratitude for the relationship that was being expressed. I remember the faces of my kids each Christmas morning as they searched. I remember Christmas eves together and dinners after church and even parties from my childhood. I remember experience.
So I’ve come to wonder about , along with non-working fireplaces, the reality of the Christmas experience. Maybe, it’s about experience for me because the season was initiated by experience. Perhaps it is because, God sent his son, as a baby, to share in the experience of that which he created. As I read in the book of books, it was experience with Jesus that changed lives. It was God, through Jesus, experiencing humanity that changed humanity. It is still experience with Jesus that changes lives. Many try to “observe” the holiday. Many try to “observe” their faith. I can tell you, it’s one thing to watch a parade, but quite a different matter to be in a parade. It’s one thing to watch a football game, but quite another to be in it. Faith is the same and Christmas is the same. It’s one thing to watch it from behind a mound of presents and credit cards. It’s quite another to be “in” it.
So I look at it for us this year and I see the first year that we’re here by ourselves. A son who’s married and a daughter in college have brought us to a new chapter in our life and new experiences of Christmas, but some things don’t change much. We still have snow and ice, and I’m very grateful for it.