The Night Before Christmas–Part I
The longer I live, the smaller this world seems.
This world into which a Baby was born–where He grew to be a Man, was condemned and killed before coming back alive to again breathe life into the dark, sin-stained void. The same formless void into which, many years earlier, He’d first spoken life, into that which He’d once called good.
And today, despite all this world’s bad, I keep getting sweet reminders of ways this imperfect life, too, is good.
One such cue came as a package–a triune gift that arrived at just the right time.
It came, in fact, on Christmas Eve.
Walking out the door of our church, the obvious drop in temperature from only an hour earlier took us by surprise. Moisture in the air, coupled with a cold breeze, made us suck in our breath.
Moments later, Allie and I remained cozy in the warm car while Bill grocery shopped. The list I’d given him wasn’t long, but we needed a few last minute items for our small family dinner later that evening. As we waited, it began to rain.
“I wish it was snowing instead,” Allie lamented, leaning forward in her seat to look out the front window. “It’s Christmas Eve,” she sighed.
“Well, it’s getting colder, so maybe your wish’ll come true.” After all, one can always hope, I thought.
My pondering was interrupted by the sound of the trunk. Bill had returned and was loading the groceries. “Buckle up, Lovey,” I said over my shoulder.
Back in the driver’s seat, my husband rubbed his hands together to warm them, then held them close to the vents. “Brrr. It’s getting cold.”
We pulled out and merged onto the interstate, Christmas music filling the space inside our car. We sang along with Perry Como.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…
Just then, the rain turned to a wintery mix. “Hey!” I exclaimed. “Maybe you’ll get your wish, Allie!”
A mile later, snow poured from the darkening sky–clumps of wet flakes creating miniature snowballs. The windshield wipers on fast speed kept tempo with I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.
“Wow! That’s quite a weather change.” Bill calculated. “It’s dropped nearly twenty degrees since we left home two hours ago.”
We slowed upon entering the gorge, nearing our exit. The roads were already snow-covered and slick. “Boy, I’d hate to be traveling far in weather like this. It’s getting bad.” I clucked sympathetically.
Exiting the highway, we turned left onto our rural country road, felt our tires slip beneath us. Bill gripped the steering wheel. “I hope the others will make it home safe,” he pondered aloud.
Our boys had joined us at church, each having arrived in his own vehicle. They would be traveling home with their girlfriends but were behind us somewhere. “Hopefully they won’t be too long,” I replied.
Just then, Bill’s phone rang. It was our son Jacob.
“Look out your rear window,” Jake said, then chuckled. “I’m right behind you.”
Turning around, I saw a pair of headlights resembling glowing eyes staring straight at me through the snowy haze, and I sighed my relief.
Now, Ian’s gang just has to get home, I silently prayed. Our oldest son would be bringing his fiancé Brittany and her children. Please keep them safe.
Rounding each bend in the road with care, Bill finally pulled in our driveway, Jacob close behind.
Everyone helped unload the groceries, and we stomped snow from our shoes as we entered the warm house.
I was slicing potatoes when the phone rang. This time it was Ian, though I could only hear Bill’s end of the conversation.
“You’re where? … And what happened to them? … Wow! … Okay, I’ll drive the tractor and meet you.”
Hanging up, Bill immediately removed his coat and hat from the hall tree and bundled back up.
“What was that all about?” I inquired.
“When Ian and Brittany got off the interstate and started home, they saw an RV pulled over. A couple traveling from Lexington, Kentucky, on their way to go camping.”
“Camping? For Christmas?”
“I know, right? Ian said something about broken windshield wipers and them getting stuck. Not exactly sure, but he wants me to come and help him try to pull them out, so I’m taking the tractor.”
I wiped my hands on a towel. “Well, be careful.”
Bill bent to give me a kiss. “Be back soon,” he said before disappearing out the door and into a covering of darkness.
The house smelled fragrant, of pine and fresh bread, when, forty minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Bill. Finally, I thought.
Answering, I could barely hear my husband’s muffled voice. “Wait. What’s that?” I asked. “Slow down.”
I listened intently–his words deliberate as he repeated his instructions. Questions were a flurry in my mind, but there was no time to inquire. We hung up.
Allie, who was sitting nearby, looked worried. “Was that Daddy?”
“Yep. Said he’s on his way home. Asked me to get the tiny house ready for guests–something about a couple and their dog.”
“Dog?” Allie’s eyes sparkled.
“Yes, they have a dog. And they need a place to stay for the night. I guess their vehicle can’t make it in this snow.”
I turned down the stove, then gathered several cleaning supplies from the laundry room before putting on my boots. Fresh snow covered the rock walk that led to The Potter’s Shed–my writing space that occasionally serves as a guest house, though usually in the summer and fall.
Opening the front door, I kicked off my boots, then turned on the lamps just inside. The space suddenly filled with warm light, and I blinked. No time to lose. Good thing this place doesn’t take long to spruce up.
Carefully climbing the small staircase that leads to the loft, I focused my attention on putting clean sheets on the bed. Little drifts of snow had gathered at the windows, like rolling Kentucky hills. How fitting, I thought.
After the bed was made, I quickly tidied the bathroom, then laid out towels and washcloths. Satisfied, I stood once more at the wreath-covered front door and eyed the cozy space, thankful I’d put up a small Christmas tree only several days before.
If I had to be stranded somewhere, this wouldn’t be such a bad place, I thought. It reminded me of the little cottage where Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius stayed while visiting the Island of Misfit Toys in the 1964 animated Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The snow falling outside made it even more magical.
Having returned to the house, I busied myself with the remaining details of dinner. Less than fifteen minutes later, Bill entered, brushing snow from his coat. “Phew! Now that was an adventure!”
I stopped stirring vegetables on the stove. “So? Tell me more.”
But before he could utter more than a dozen words, there was a knock. “That’s them,” Bill said, walking to open the door.
A couple clad in wool wraps and down jackets stepped in, a hound dog of sorts dressed in an orange parka close at their heels. It was obvious the pair’s smiles were forced–both honestly appearing a bit dazed and confused. “Hello,” they spoke in unison.
“This is Josh and this is Lauren, and …” Bill paused. “I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your dog’s name.”
“Padmé.” It was Josh who spoke. “You know, from Star Wars.”
“Great name!” I said, stepping toward the couple. “I’m Maureen, and this is Allie.”
Our daughter was already petting the friendly dog. “Hi, Padmé. Are you cozy in your jacket?” Padmé’s tail thumped her pleasure.
We stood looking at one another for a moment–the silence not awkward but, instead, comfortable. Calming.
Finally, “Well, you must be hungry and tired.” I paused, recognizing something in their faces. “And I’m guessing–a bit shaken, too.”
It was Lauren’s turn. Her eyes told me all I needed to know. “That’s an understatement.” Again, she forced a smile–though this time it seemed to come with a bit more ease. “Thank you,” she continued. “I’m just rattled from all that… that happened.”
“I’m sure,” I said. “And to be way out here, in the middle of nowhere. And on Christmas Eve too.”
“Well, we really do appreciate the invitation to stay,” Josh echoed. “Isn’t that right, Padmé?” He leaned over to pat his pup’s head, then added. “With Covid, not to mention we’re complete strangers.”
“Of course. We’re just thankful that there’s room in the inn,” Bill said, and we all laughed before he led the way to The Potter’s Shed to get them settled while I finished dinner.
And as I cooked, thoughts, too, simmered in my mind–incipient inclinations of what God was up to on this cold, late December night.
Despite Covid-19 and our best laid plans to play it safe–even forfeiting the traditions of larger family gatherings, which we’d come to enjoy–we had a trio of strangers on the night before Christmas, and, quite honestly, they had us.
In truth, we, too, were nothing more than a motley crew of misfits–with all our faults and failures, all for whom the Baby came all those years ago.
But unlike Jesus–who came in perfection to a dark world that didn’t recognize Him, a world He Himself spoke into existence but where He never really fit in–we were far from perfect, all gathered there around the table.
Still, God can use us, imperfections and all, and that’s just what He loves to do. And the world was about to get even smaller…
(To be continued…)