The official Snow Day notification came at 5:56 a.m. Friday via a school district phone call. A couple inches had fallen in the early morning hours, kicking off Winter Break one day early. While I’m not one to venture out for a run in slick, slippery conditions, it promised to be an action-packed day, so I decided to try and get it done early. As I headed out in my oversized, Rocky-inspired sweats, I was immediately struck by the quiet, peaceful conditions. I was the only one out on the roads, my footprints leaving the first marks on the snow-covered sidewalks. It was not slick or slippery, in fact, it was powdery, light and delicate. I continued past houses with Christmas lights still on, in the morning darkness they cast a beautiful glow across the peaceful surroundings. I kept running, slowly, almost mesmerized by the beauty. I was thankful for the serenity and the solitude; it was quite different from some of the chaos I’d created for myself in prior days. Like desperately ordering a Seahawks jersey online — quite possibly from overseas, I’m still not sure — and wondering not only if it would arrive for Christmas, but if at all. But that snowy, quiet morning I was able to let go of all of that. That slow, steady run through the stillness helped me to focus on the simplicity of Christmas that had somewhat fallen by the wayside.
That evening, our church opened the doors to the Bethlehem village we’d created. Through building, painting, sewing, creating, and a variety of talents and resources, we worked together to help bring the birthplace of Jesus to life Friday through Monday nights and for a large part of the day Christmas Eve. Families don robes and costumes to tend blacksmith, pottery, jewelry shops and more. Roman soldiers saunter. Animals bellow. Visitors roam the sawdusty streets and are taken back to a long-ago time.
My family and I worked there last night in the stone-cutting shop, where folks decorate their own stone with an inspirational word, name or picture. An older gentleman hung back a bit as kids worked on their designs. He then moved to the front and carefully took his time selecting a stone from our wooden bowl. He didn’t want to design it, he simply wanted to take it with him. We chatted briefly and then he stepped away, toward the temple and live nativity. I wondered, Was he alone? With family? Was he missing someone? As he left, I thought I noticed a far-off look in his eyes. Maybe even a few tears. “This is quite a celebration,” he said.
From that quiet, snowy run to the sawdust-covered streets of Bethlehem and the simple words of a stranger, I was reminded this weekend that, as we get ready for Christmas, Angels still do tread here. Heaven often meets earth — when we just take the time to look around, we can see it, and we can feel it.
This IS quite a celebration.