But at Christmas time, the most amazing thing would happen. For some reason, my parents called a truce, allowing a peaceful hush to descend on our home. I’m not sure why the holy hush when we weren’t terribly religious, but nevertheless some sort of reverence inspired by the season calmed spirits. We had happy family moments, sitting around the fireplace in pajamas by the dim light of our Christmas tree decorated with strings of popcorn and cranberries, laughing and conversing, eating pinwheel cookies, drinking eggnog. We would discuss the little fat man who miraculously managed to bring toys to every child in the world in one night, unaware that his behavior rang of omnipresence, showing that even folks unable to grasp the real meaning of Christmas bumped up against its truth.
If only we could’ve really loved each other year round the way we loved each other during Christmas. I think my parents would’ve chosen to live everyday in that calm but didn’t know how to bottle the peace and use it another day. Unfortunately the truce broke soon after the holiday, and our family eventually shattered.
While raising my sons, a holy hush descended on our home too, but unlike my family of origin, we understood the meaning of the celebration that caused people all over the world, the broken and battered world, to hope and believe in reconciliation with God. We celebrated with many of the same traditions as my parents, but with a sense of significance.
In this Christmas season, I think of how all the world glimmers and burns bright with lights for a God so many don’t even believe in, many chuckling at the ridiculousness of the faith story, even considering it offensive. To some, it’s a fairytale that weak folks believe, this idea that a powerful creator entered into his creation in the form of a helpless baby, born to an unwed teenage mother in a building shared with farm animals. He could’ve lived in a palace and commanded armies to protect him and demand obedience. Instead he lived simply and humbly, cared for the marginalized, and submitted to a horrendous death.
The nineteenth century author George MacDonald talks about basing his life on this seemingly far-fetched storyline in his book Thomas Wingfold: "Even if there be no hereafter, I would live my time believing in a grand thing that ought to be true if it is not...Let me hold by the better than the actual, and fall into nothingness off the same precipice with Jesus and John and Paul and a thousand more, who were lovely in their lives, and with their deaths make even the nothingness into which they have passed like the garden of the Lord."
May a holy hush descend on us all this Christmas as we celebrate this story. God knows we need it.