The crescendo of the day is complete. The joyous ruckus of children whipped into a frenzy over the satisfaction of wholly met desires. It’s what I always wanted!! Thank you!! You’re the best mom, ever! Oh yes. I am. For now. And that’s OK. I felt the same way about my own mother. Absolutely head over heals indebted and in love one minute, then plotting my escape for all eternity the next. It’s the way it works. Family. Love them. Hate them. Never really escape them.
There is a delightful calm that hovers over my home right now. The children are busily playing with their toys, my husband is at work, and I sit pecking at some keys trying to capture the feelings of the past few weeks. For so many of us, the holidays are endured. They are hectic and tough. They are relentless and cruel. People have a sense of desperation, rushing about, worried they are going to miss out, worried that they aren’t going to have enough, or be enough.
From where I sit, I can see our nativity scene. My son took my favorite Sheldon ornament (from Big Bang Theory) and added him to the scene. Perhaps Jesus can appreciate the humor of another “wise man” crashing the party, a man that doesn’t seem to believe, but still being present to witness the miracle of miracles. God willing, Sheldon, the man of science and fact will be converted, too, just like I was so many years ago.
The sweet little scene sits amongst all the red balls, Christmas carols, white twinkling lights, smells of ham in the oven, shiny Christmas garland, and colorful presents piled high. It’s as if the manger were plopped down in the middle of Las Vegas. Bright lights, pageantry, glitz, and glamour. What a contradiction!
Could there be anything farther than the experience that Mary and Joseph had on that night so long ago? To be without a home, food, comfort. To be a new mother on that cold wintry night in a manger. To be surrounded by the smells of the animals. To be without light. My little manger, captured for eternity in that moment, but yet so far away from this moment, this Christmas.
Imagine the cold, the fear, the doubts, the darkness. And then He was born and it all changed. Nothing was ever the same again.
There are moments like that so often in our lives. Mostly we can look back and see them in hindsight. One moment the world is a certain way and then the next, an accident, a death, a cancer diagnosis, and then it all changes. It’s never the same. I had a moment like that as I sat in the ER awaiting the results of the CT scan. Doctors get sick, too, you know. It feels like some kind of betrayal, though. I’m supposed to have superior knowledge to avoid such things, but alas, my body functions just like yours and mine decided to become unbearably swollen right around my neck. Painful and tight. Swallowing was getting harder. Plus I looked like a bull frog.
I wasn’t afraid. The results really didn’t matter. I was alone. I was getting hungry. It was dark and cold, but I wasn’t scared. My comfort comes from somewhere beyond. It comes from knowing that even in the worst scenario, like being homeless, hated, hungry, lost, afraid, lonely, or sick, even in the deepest darkest moments of our existence, hope endures. Light shines through. Love remains.
I almost wish all the Christmas decorations in all the world would disappear. The ugly Christmas sweaters, the elves on the shelves, the Santas and his reindeers, the tinsel, garland, bright lights, ornaments, stockings, gingerbread men and women -can all just disappear! The only thing that will remain is the nativity scene. The one bright shining light of the season. Hope. Quiet relentless hope in the face of despair. May we all know the peace that comes from our hopes realized even when they are not. May we still know peace in the turmoils of our lives. Peace like in a manger on a night so long ago.
It turns out the cold that I had been nursing for the past several weeks decided to lodge in the glands in my neck and have their own kind of Christmas party. I was sick, but I would survive. Two days of antibiotics later and I still look like a bullfrog, but one that has since gone on a diet. I’m getting better and life got a little simpler. In the midst of trying to help others, I needed to seek help. God finds us in those moments, quiet and alone. He speaks to us. His voice is small. Sometimes, you just got to turn down the noise of Christmas to hear it.