Here is a wee little joke to remind us all, believers and not, what is really the meaning of Christmas – the joy of a child.
So there is this urban church that decides to have a life-size nativity for the first time. All goes well, until a few days after Christmas when the pastor realizes that the baby Jesus is no longer resting in his manger. “Hmm, this is odd” he thinks. Looking down the block, he sees a small boy pulling a wagon. Jogging, he catches up to the boy, and sure enough, the baby Jesus is lying in the wagon. “Hmm, this is even more odd.”
“Son, why do you have the baby Jesus in your wagon?”
“Well, I prayed that I would get a new red wagon, and if I got it, I told Jesus that I would take him for a ride in it.”
Who can resist a story about a boy with a red wagon? However, I am captured by the human capacity for both dreaming for something as well as fulfilling one’s word. Not only did the boy believe his prayer would be answered, but he knew he needed to hold up his end of the deal.
Children usually “get” this lesson more easily than adults – we get wrapped up in consequences and what is in it for ourselves, and all the other rationalizations that allow ourselves to weasel out our “deals” and “compromises” we make with our selves and others. We would do well to follow this boy’s counsel.
I am looking out my windows at the snow coming down this morning. It is quite beautiful to look at. Live in, um, not so much. Let me elaborate.
The glorious Portland Metro area here in the Northwest is a wee bit hilly. It also has two major rivers running through it, so anywhere you want to go necessitates traversing a bridge. That means there are three major arterioles to get through the major metropolis of Oregon – Interstate 5 running north and south, and the 405 and 205 Hwys that circle the city. I live north of Portland and both my husband and I have sisters living south of us. Add a whole bunch of snow, and things get creative around here.
So, my husband’s family is all supposed to get together for Christmas. The only problem to this plan is that we have been experiencing a “winter snow event” for a week now and this is a perplexing thing for most folks around here. Case in point:
Yesterday, December 23rd, the powers that be at ODOT (Oregon Dept. of Transportation) decides a plan is required that will clear the snow and get people to their homes. Good idea. Rather than asking a kindergartner what a good approach would be, someone came up with this plan. Just south of one of the area’s major shopping malls, I-5 and Hwy 205 intersect. The plan is for 15 minutes, ODOT will shut down the freeways at the intersection and then start plowing. The cars will then caravan behind the plows and all will be on their merry way after a mere 15 minute wait. Oh, and the timing of the plan, begin at 4 pm.
Major shopping day, major freeways, major traffic. Every kindergartner out there knows this is a bad idea. People were stuck in the ensuing debacle for hours. And every single one of them were wishing for just about any other way to celebrate Christmas other than how they were.
To make matters worse, there are areas that the trucks cannot get to, hence stores are sold out of staples. Who knew getting a roll of toilet paper on Christmas morning would ever be a hot commodity?
So, just what is my Christmas wish for you? Oh, along side the ever present wish for world peace, health, and well being, I think I will wish for childlike wonder for all. I would like each of you, regardless of religious persuasion, to follow the lead of the children who still can hear the sound of the Christmas bell jingling (like in Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express), who still catch snowflakes on their tongues, who still wake up a dawn on Christmas morning with a sense of wonder and expectation.
For that is the meaning of Christmas, yes? It is a celebration of a people’s wonder over a coming Savior, and the great expectation they held in their hearts. Oh, and I would like you all to find a way for Christmas to be absent of stress and full of good memories. For some of you, I know this will be difficult.
So, today, as you all prepare for the coming excitement of Christmas morning, may the feelings of wonder and expectation fill you. And may you not be wondering what the heck you can feed your family with a package of ramen and chocolate soy milk, nor what you can wrap up around the house that would make for a joyful morning for your children, since all their gifts are stuck at the UPS’s hub 5 miles from your house.
Merry Christmas people!