|"Nativity", Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538)|
Mrs. P and I will have a quiet Yule together. No trips over the river or through the woods, much as I would love to be at Grandmother’s house, I’m just not ready for a trip that long, yet. No chestnuts roasting or otherwise. We’ll exchange gifts in the morning, (which always drives her nuts because she wants to open them on Christmas Eve. I insist on waiting. It’s the only time all year that she lets me put my foot down.) We’ll roast a turkey breast and some mushy vegetables. We’ll hold hands on the couch and watch sentimental stuff on television and love one another the best way we know how. There will be phone calls to friends and family who are far away and maybe even a surprise visitor or two. You never know what Santa may bring. We’ll spoil the cats and Jake as much as we can. There will be tears shed and laughter shared. With any luck, we’ll smile out the window while we watch it snow.
Parents have a chance to hold onto some of Christmas' wonder through their children's eyes. Because we have no children, Christmas has grown a little less magical over the years. But, I’m OK with that. I’ve always thought there’s too much magic glommed onto Christmas anyway. Especially when you think about that first Silent Night.
They must have smelled terrible. The long journey. Nowhere to wash. No fresh water but what had been poured out for the animals. No wonder the innkeeper didn’t want them inside.
And what a place to give birth. No mattress. No sheets or blankets. Just some cloth torn into strips to use for bandages and to cover the infant. An old carpenter for a midwife. A mound of straw for a bed. A feeding trough for a cradle. And the smell of dirty hay and manure hanging in the air.
Who came to see? Who cared? Nameless shepherds. Migrant workers whose hands stunk with the grease of their flocks. The child was welcomed into the world by men whose expertise was in pulling lambs out of bawling ewes. They came and saw. Maybe they even helped with the birth. And when it was finished, they disappeared back into history. None of them could write, and no one would listen to them, so their story died with them. They left the child mother and her strange, quiet husband in the straw where they found them. And the baby slept in heavenly peace.
The real miracle of Christmas, the real reason I still care, can’t help caring on this night when the stores finally turn their employees loose and the streets are empty of all but the gently falling snow. The real reason that this night is Holy is this smelly, filthy barn, in the arms of a woman who was little more than a girl, watched over by a mystified, silent father and a group of rough, ignorant farmhands. This is the place where the Creator of the universe chose to join the human race. Here amid the grease and the smell of dung, Almighty God became one of us. God from God. Light from Light. True God from True God.
The jolly fat man has his place during the season, and God bless him for it. I love the Grinch and the Drummer Boy and sweet, long-suffering George Bailey. Each of them has a role in the long Christmastide. But tonight, on Christmas Eve, when the moon shines on the breast of the new fallen snow, I don’t really care about reindeer. Tonight, there is no one for me but that baby. God stooped to conquer death that night. And for a moment, in that insignificant stable, maybe for the first time in history, there really was peace on earth. And that's reason enough to hope that it there might be peace again.
Welcome, Jesus. Life will be hard for you , but tonight, sleep.
And on Earth, Peace, Good Will Toward All
And to you, my faithful reader and friend, a Merry, Merry Christmas