I'm writing this on Christmas Eve, and a dickensian fog has descended on our valley - very rare here in the land of no humidity, but we've had record breaking rains and a whole week of rainy days - swirling and flowing and making Christmas lights glow instead of twinkle. The whole neighborhood has taken on a magical quality - very appropriate for Christmas!
It is my custom each year to meditate a bit on Christmas - its meaning and everything that comes with it.
This year I've been thinking globally.
If you saw the movie "Fiddler on the Roof", there is a scene where the Sabbath is being celebrated - first by the papas, then the mommas, then the sons, then the daughters, and then it spreads to a multitude of households, all offering their Sabbath prayer, all lighting candles, all singing and celebrating the coming of God's Sabbath day.
I've been thinking of Christmas like that - how in each home, city, country, the traditions are different, but all have at their center the Birth. In my mind's eye I see gazillions of homes, hear Christmas carols in a thousand languages, see hearts tender and remembering the Babe Who first opened His eyes on the world He came to save.
The Light of the World shines in each light bulb on each decorated house, in each candle, in each speck of brightness that shines in the darkness.
Smiles light faces instead of frowns, excited children can't wait to dive into the presents, and family traditions reassure us and usher in the holiday with a sense of timeless nostalgia. In our hearts, we all come home for Christmas, even if the family is no longer "home" on earth. God gave us memories to bless us and comfort us while we sojourn here - for this, at Christmas more than usual, reminds us that this is not our Home - and for me, 90% of my family is Home. (They are no doubt listening to the original choir that sang on that first Christmas evening, to threadbare shepherds guarding the Passover lambs.)
I think of Joseph, how he must have been wondering what God was doing when they wound up in a stinky, cold stable, where the manger was carved from cold stone in the side of the cave, their only source of warmth the un-housetrained cows and donkeys, chickens and dogs who shared their space. And then he probably wound up having to deliver Mary, who was not yet his wife in the full sense of the word, and feeling embarrassed and terrified - he was, after all, delivering the Messiah! Alone. And altho he no doubt would have helped sheep or donkeys deliver, this was waaaaaaaaaay different.
And Mary, who was personally told by an angel that she would give birth to Messiah, the King of the universe, perhaps had dreams of giving birth in a royal household, of having her Son welcomed by the Pharisees and Sadducees and religious authorities. Yet somehow she finds herself in an unsanitary, uncomfortable, un-royal stable, alone - no midwife - having to give birth attended by a man who wasn't yet a real husband, but a bodyguard. She was only anywhere from 13 to 16 years old, had probably never seen a birth or been told much about it. God, what are You doing???
All of which tells me that God does not act in ways that we would imagine - He often does things in ways we simply do not comprehend. I wonder what He thinks of what Christmas has become. Certainly there is a lot of hubbub about things that have nothing to do with the birth of the Savior.
But for those of us who look back to His birth with a touch of wonder and adoration, and look forward to the next time He comes, also with a touch of wonder and adoration - and yearning, and being excited children who can't wait to dive into our celestial presents, and impatiently waiting to see The light of the world, face-to-face - the day in itself is a foretaste of the celebration that is to come. For we have opened our hearts - no doubt originally as stinky and cold as that stable - and He, our Savior and King, has entered without hesitation, cleansing us and filling our earthen vessels with a treasure the world at large has ignored. And the world at large is, for this one day of the year, concerned with giving instead of taking, peace instead of strife, and instead of snarling and grabbing and backstabbing, singing the carols of Christmas.
May your difficulties and pain, your limitations and illness, fade a bit during this time - knowing that He is near, He is listening, and He loves you with an everlasting love.