This year, my part of the country — mid-New England — was plunged unceremoniously into the heart of winter on Thanksgiving Eve when temps plummeted and eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the region. I imagine these were the kinds of brumal conditions that originally inspired James Lord Pierpont to compose his familiar “Jingle Bells” one-hundred-fifty or so years ago. Coincidentally, that song was initially penned as a Thanksgiving Day ode before it evolved into the favorite Christmas staple of today.
Well, Pierpont would have felt wistfully right at home this November’s “jingle-all-the-way” holiday.
Temperatures moderated soon thereafter; so much so that, when precipitation fell through December it was mostly rain that predominated. By Christmas week, only the occasional, disconsolate patch of snow hung in there to dapple the landscape.
Christmas Eve: more teeming showers, more creeping of the mercury to unseasonable heights. It was weather more appropriate to mid-March in New England; or late December in Seattle.
Christmas Day: even milder, drizzle still threatening.
White Christmas? Scotch that. A brown/gray/green affair was on tap.
I confess: much as I dislike the wintertime, a dusting of snow and chilly temps still strike me as in order for December 25 and thereabouts. “It just doesn’t seem like Christmas,” you’ll hear some folks round these parts lamenting over the un-Christmasy atmospherics. I could imagine myself among them, allowing the spring-like conditions to put a ding in my festive mood.
Still, methinks I’ll choose to NOT yield to that temptation.
I recall a story by Bible teacher Dean Sherman. I heard it many years ago but it has always stayed with me: he told of preaching in a worship service somewhere in Europe, standing in an ancient, unheated stone church building. Lacking were most of the ecclesiastical bells and whistles to which we churchgoers have become accustomed here in the fashionable West: flashy worship band, professional level vocals, plush, climate-controlled meeting facilities, top-shelf acoustics — nowhere to be found. Slated to bring the sermon at that gathering, Sherman was fretting about the situation. He was distracted by the surroundings; would the assembled be similarly unsettled?
Then God poked him in the ribs, reminding him what believers’ meeting together is supposed to be all about. Hint: it’s none of those luxurious features just mentioned, but a holy people making time corporately to come into His presence, to praise Him.
That correction, no surprise, changed everything about Dean Sherman’s glum attitude.
In the same way: a snow-deprived Christmas? An above-freezing December 25? Gift-giving let downs? A holiday stuck in an unfamiliar location or minus the people one loves the most? For many of us that would qualify as a genuine bummer — except that even under the most inauspicious circumstances, the Day remains an opportunity to focus on what God the Father did in sending His treasured Son to rescue a failing humanity; a humanity that includes each one of us.
Although I apologize not one whit for the stylistic distinctions that make Christmas such a delight for me here in America (See Happy Holiday! Smashing Anti-Christmas Myths), I exuberantly admit these features decidedly do not constitute what’s most important about the celebration. Note: it ain’t called “SNOWmas” or “WINTERmas” or “TREEmas”. The season of year goes by “CHRISTmas”.
This understanding punches home one more stirring and eternally practical truth: Jesus’ decision to visit the planet, for our sake, ought to be gratefully acknowledged anytime of year. April 12th, July 17th, September 22nd, Mother’s Day, Arbor Day, the day after Christmas — sun or rain or snow or heat or gloom of night, we owe Him adoration.
Rhett Palmer used to sing: “Every Day Is Christmas When You’ve Got the Lord Inside” – and he’s right. Dreaming of a white Christmas is fine. But it’s abiding all year long in the One behind the Day which truly matters.