Christmas is here again, and I’m so enjoying it. Getting out my time-worn, favorite decorations, setting the table with Christmas dishes, and the greenery on the mantle all have great appeal to me. And besides all that, when else do men wear socks that make me giggle or women wear red sweaters that jingle when they walk? And who smiles at me in the grocery store in July? Only the one who observes my antics of trying to reach the jar of artichoke hearts on the top shelf. But not so during the Christmas season, the clerks and even those stocking the shelves all wear smiles. And the shoppers are all grinning because for a few weeks, we can buy eggnog and peppermint ice cream and dark-chocolate-covered cherries! And we buy plenty because January always follows December.
And then comes the nightly marathon of sappy, Christmas movies that entice me to my cuddle chair and to that sentimental place in my heart I like to visit ever so often. The predictable flick usually involves a very sick child, or an orphan, or a family stranded in a snowstorm, or a bookstore about to close. But just for a season, we excuse writers and producers for totally disregarding reality. I mean, what is the likelihood of a mop-headed, sweat-shirted widower with three children developing a serious relationship with a stiletto-wearing, brief-case-carrying attorney who was born with a career on her mind? Or what about the angel who appears in disguise just in time to make everything right? Perhaps just for this season, the writers take extra license in using deus ex machina (god out of a machine) to give us the happy endings we crave. It’s perfectly okay with me; I enjoy them everyone.
Oh, but it’s the Christmas music that really gets me going – everything from songs about figgy pudding and Grandma getting run over by the reindeer to Pavarotti’s “O Holy Night” and the Vienna Boys Choir. From Thanksgiving afternoon on, my CD player at home is filled with my favorites, and my car radio is tuned to nonstop Christmas music.
I drove around town last Thursday, playing my steering wheel like it was my piano and singing along with a rhythmic rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” And then came Gene Autry’s 1950-ish recording of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I was still driving along by myself, singing every word in my heartiest chest voice, and just as Rudolph went down in history, the most ethereal, unaccompanied choral sound filled all the space in my car—the familiar phrases of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in harmonies like I’d never heard.
When came the line “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light,” I was grateful for the red traffic light to stop for a moment. A familiar lump rose in my throat, and tears made tracks down my cheeks. How could a radio programmer do such a thing? Forty five seconds earlier I was singing a silly song about a shiny-nosed reindeer, but I found myself sitting at a red light overwhelmed. How can this be? Then I thought –it’s Truth; it’s Reality; it’s God; it’s the Sacred bumping up against the profane.
That’s Christmas—the Sacred touching the profane. God Himself, stepping out of the light of His heaven into a dark, messy world. We see the Sacred bumping up against the profane every day – the purest love of a battered child for the abusive, alcoholic parent; the decisive, caring hands of a doctor giving care to a young man gunned down by a gang member; a Syrian refugee taking shelter in a cathedral, a mother holding her bleeding son.
Oh, how we need Christmas! How we need to experience the Sacred! It gives us hope. It sets things right. Maybe you won’t have to stop at a traffic light to experience the Sacred this Christmas, but wherever you are or whatever you’re doing when you recognize it, stop. Grasp it. Savor it, and remember that it’s holy.