When I was younger my grandfather was Santa. No lie. He was. Every year at midnight mass Silent night would begin to play and from the back of church “Santa” would silently walk down the aisle. He would remove his red and white hat and with one knee bent kneel before the manger. I tear up now just thinking about it. How beautiful and precious that was. I know theologically it wasn’t perhaps right. But for the reverence it displayed it was exactly what Christmas is supposed to be.
I mess up Christmas every year. Flat on my face mess up. I do. I get anxious about not having enough money. Or no money at all. I get overwhelmed with schedules that seem to double three weeks before the magical day. I am paralyzed with the amount of people around me all the time. Talking and wanting me to respond. I am exhausted with trying to be enough for everyone moment of every day. And like today I am hiding in my house with tea and books surrounding me because my soul knows that I am getting it all wrong.
And when I am getting it wrong I missing the manger. I am filling it with bigger presents. And louder music and bigger productions. And saying yes to everything that is “Christmasy”. I am spending money on more things instead on things that matter. I am forgetting who I am and what I believe.
I believe that Jesus came simple. He came as a baby. Quiet. Bloodied in a manger with animals and dirt and hay. There was no big production. He did not come with crowned jewels on his head. He came a bloodied mess and left the earth the same way. And when we turn Christmas into a big production we miss him. I miss Him.
And so He needs to remind me. He needs to quiet my soul again and whisper “I am here”.
Every morning we pick up a little girl from Pakistan to go to school. She has been in the US for a few months now. It is just she and her parents. She doesn’t answer when I ask her about other family still in Pakistan. I have learned there are subjects and conversations I need to earn. And so I will wait. A few weeks ago we were waiting for her outside of her apartment building and I was feeling rushed. My entitled self-had no time to wait. I had things to do that day that I am sure were extremely important. Except for the life of me I can’t remember what they were now. I turned around to see what was taking her so long to walk to the car and there she stood. Perfectly still, in the middle of the courtyard not moving towards the car.
I had to catch my breathe.
This was Christmas. This was silent night.
In the simple. In the snowflakes on the tongue of the little girl from the Middle East who had never seen snow before.
And then just last night. I needed to be reminded again. By a nine year old neighbor boy from across the street. Standing at my door with a ham and boxed mashed potatoes in a torn plastic bag. He said that his mother did not know what to give us for Christmas so she gave us this ham. The ham from the food pantry that she stood in line for hours before to feed her family. The ham that was their best. And they gave. They gave everything they had.
This is Christmas. This is silent night.
I just stood there and cried whispering “thank you’s…”
I needed to be reminded of what my soul craves. What your soul really craves. It is not the more and better. It is the enough. It is the hard conversations. It is the folding of the laundry. It is for the ringing of the bell. It is for the red bucket. It is the paying for someone’s gas. It is for the cookies we never bake. It is for the sister we drive hundreds of miles to comfort. It is for the letter that we need to write. It is for the forgiving we need to receive. It is for the hot cocoa we need to sip with our children. It is for the groceries we help carry in. It is for the asking questions. It is for the slower mornings. It is for the saying no to really good things. It is for the grace that we lavishly give. It is for the prayers that we pray over those in our homes. It is for hearing when our friend says she is overwhelmed and not leaving her alone. It is for the games that we play on the floor.
It is for the quiet and the simple.
The here and the now.
The snowflakes and the ham.
It is the midnight mass with candles. It is the one knee bent to our savior.
This is Christmas. This is silent night