I have been away from the blogosphere for a long time. Sometimes life demands to be lived instead of written. But, this year I wanted to sneak in a Christmas and New Year blessing to you, dear readers. Thank you for sticking with me.
While preparing for the Christmas season and another move within the Upper Midwest, I am reading the Christmas story in a whole new light. This year, I connect to Mary and Joseph’s family in Bethlehem; to the mess Mary walks into to deliver her baby. I believe there is such wisdom in a two thousand year old story, which can be so familiar you know it word for word; and yet the story still provides surprising new perspectives every time you read it, perspectives that are relevant for life today.
You see, as a writer, I am a storyteller, as well as a collector of good stories. The other night, I sat at a meeting and got to witness the story of a man I have come to admire because he has given his life to serving the youth of our community. He told a story of how he tried out for the NFL and the story included one of his life’s greatest regrets. I am reminded we all have moments in our life, big and little, which make great stories.
His moment of regret was defining, which made it a great story. The “what if” moment of regret, this moment’s significance to him, has been part of his thoughts for decades. The human condition to wonder the significance of our lives, or how our lives matter in the bigger picture of things is not unique to just this man. It is why I so love the movie It’s a Wonder Life this time of year.
As I thought about his story, it made me think about all the Christmas story and Joseph’s family in Bethlehem…the myriad of “what-if” moments within the famous story. All of these what-ifs begin as soon as Joseph begins the journey to take his bride-to-be back to the family land. “What-if” he would have left earlier? Taken a wagon? Not been so young? Had a better position?
But where I am really curious is when I consider the family who owns the land where this entire tribe must land. As this census is called, everyone in the tribe of David must come to you no matter where they have landed throughout the region. There is no consideration to what you have going on at the time. This family on this land has to entertain everyone from crazy Uncle Otto to this cousin Joe with his pregnant girlfriend, now the family scandal, and play nice too! Otto has to have the nice guest room because he demands it. All the nice tent land is full and Joe arrives late with just a donkey and his pregnant girlfriend. For the Love! Not to mention feeding the hundreds and then you must deliver a baby in your living room! All of history will only remember you as having no room in the guest room, damn that Uncle Otto. “What-if” you would have known the baby was coming? Or customs were different and you could put anyone you wanted in the “inn” or guest room? Or history was written by women?
Was this the intention of the Christmas story? Was it suppose to be messy and imperfect? The first 40 years of my life, I was certainly lead to believe a different version of the Christmas story. But, now I am not so sure the perfect, magical version was right. This messy, imperfect version with real people seems more likely.
Which made me think about perspective. In our house on December 25, we just celebrated the coming of the Love of the universe into our messy everyday lives. We celebrated how a family in Bethlehem opened their home to a man and his pregnant girlfriend without question or judgment. We celebrated things not going according to plan, but finding a way to joy anyway. We celebrated fresh starts and new life. We celebrate looking for Love in the least likely of places. There was magic and moments of perfection, but for the most part, it was messy and imperfect. It was full of real people sharing real life. There was joy in the real. What if that is Christmas?
I know overall 2016 did not go according to plan for our family. I know that the stories we will tell about this year have helped us learn, or practice, if you will, some Christmas perspective and to look for love in some unlikely places. If I am honest with myself, despite the bumps in the plan, we seem to be ending the year exactly where we should be. So as I go forward into 2017, I am going to take my new Christmas perspective.
My hope for you, dear readers, is your 2016 stories end in joy and as we all start 2017, our “what-ifs” lead to new and exciting places.