“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6, KJV
There is something magical about crunching and crushing through the crispy front yard to unearth the multi-colored glowing orbs that shine to the surface. Dad wasn’t a fan of digging Christmas lights out of the snow, but I loved it. I also loved sledding on the old wooden sleds and making snowballs that smacked when I threw them at my brother. It was the kind of snow that fell in your hair and stayed there.
Looking out my second story bedroom window, was a streetlight at the entrance of the cul-de-sac across from our house. When it snowed this time of year, I would fall asleep watching the snowflakes swirl and twirl in the wind and light. And every Christmas morning I’d run outside to inspect the roof for footprints or hoofprints in the snow frosted shingles.
I live in Oklahoma now. These moments a very few and far between. So, you can imagine my delight when I heard last week of a storm heading our way. As friends laughed and shared memes about bread and milk, I awaited this glorious sign of Christmas with a bubbling anticipation. As my children began to talk about possible snow days, I shared with them how their uncle and I walked uphill both ways in 4 feet of snow just to get to the bus. As they rolled their eyes, my inner child thought of the beautiful white Christmas’s of my childhood in Colorado and South Dakota.
Admittedly, I was reluctant to get too excited. I have lived in Oklahoma long enough to know how swiftly weather changes and alters course. I hesitate to share this with you as what brings me great memories and hours of outdoor joy, also equals havoc for friends and neighbors. The cold and snow of winter does not mean Christmas to many, it means disaster. Though I’m thankful for the safety of our community, my anticipatory hope was dashed. Not one snowflake could I find.
Anticipation is part of the holidays. As children, we anticipated certain presents under the tree, grandparents coming into town, getting a part in the church Christmas pageant, and Santa’s arrival. The older we get, we start to anticipate what the holidays will look like, who we’ll spend them with, what memories we’ll make, and what joy we will feel.
As an adult, Christmas looks so different. I no longer live in a snowy place. Many of the beloved family that used to come and visit, are now part of the great cloud of witnesses. The kids are teenagers now and express less-than-desired eagerness to participate in traditions. My expectations of joy and cheer are often (if I let them) deflated by busyness, and expense, and stress, and heartache.
As I’ve grown on my journey of faith, I have come to embrace and exhale in the gift of Advent. It’s a different kind of anticipation. One that has little to do with me or snow or the attitudes of others. I find Christmas spirit, Christmas love, in the light of hope and joy and peace. I see anticipation in terms of civility among neighbors, mercy and provisions for the poor, comfort and peace for the sick, the gift of presence for the lonely, the voice of hope for the hopeless, and the human desire to believe something greater is yet to come.
The anticipatory energy of the season should be spent creating room for new friends to pull up a chair at the table, our tables, and the table of the Lord. The coming of a promise fulfilled, for saving grace, for new beginnings, for brilliant renewal as white and gleaming as the snow. Could it be, that through the gift of Christmas love, love manifested in the form of a child, that we all might be worth far more than anything bought in a store?
Christmas may not look the way it used to. It certainly won’t look like our childhood memories, for better or worse. In fact, it may not look how you plan it or want it to. Christmas in Oklahoma will rarely be white, yet Christmas is coming. With or without snow, Jesus is born. With or without family traditions, Christmas brings the promise of something new in us. With or without everything going the way we want, Christmas is coming.
May you not be filled with anxiety over parties or planning or relatives or gifts.
May you not be filled with worry over finances or shelter or warmth or health.
May you not be filled with disappointment over dreams deferred or snow unfallen.
May you not be filled with doubt over your worth, your purpose, your calling, or your God.
May God gently send a swirl of crystal flakes to wrap you in God’s grace.
May God surround you, in the flurry of winter, to remind you of God’s love.
May God guide you through the packed terrain of your life, building you with hope.
May God take your weary soul, your broken heart, your worried mind, your tired body, and renew them like fresh snow.
May God take your hand, lead you to a manger lamb, and make your anticipation grow.
God made you. God has always loved you. God has never left you. God’s love for you will never cease. Nothing you ever do will separate you from God’s love. In all seasons, at all times, God is with us all. That is Christmas. God with us.
Merry Christmas, dear friends.