It doesn’t snow here. Not the sticking, piling-up-on-the-ground kind, anyway. Every couple of years a few flakes will escape a cloud en route to Flagstaff and settle on top of a saguaro for photographers to ogle. It happened this morning in Scottsdale. But it doesn’t snow at my house. The last time there was official measurable snow in Phoenix was 1937. I can dream of a white Christmas all I want to, but a dream is all it will be as long as I hang my stocking in a house in the desert.
I do my best to get in the Christmas spirit, though. I love to sit in my chair, snuggled under my Wal-Mart quilt while I drink a cup of hot decaf, and watch the LED lights on our pre-lit artificial tree. Thanks to Pandora, the sounds of George Winston’s “December” float up easily from my laptop and set the mood while I watch a DVD of a crackling fire on my HD television.
Ah, Xmas. I can fashion quite a holiday atmosphere when I get all my props in place. But one thing always eludes me. It doesn’t snow here. If only it would. I’d never get out of that comfy, cozy chair.
Where did I get the idea that snowlessness diminishes my Christmas, though? I did a quick search of Christmas carols and realized only Irving Berlin’s grammy winner sets that bar so high.
Don’t you hate to question beautiful little unrealistic ideas of how things are supposed to be? And questioning traditions is sacrilege! I mean, that’s why we call them traditions—because they’re . . . traditional.
My daughter asked me last month which part of the Thanksgiving meal was the most important to me. She and her family wanted to change up the menu a little—maybe grill some burgers. “Well, to me, the turkey and gravy are essential,” I told her, “and I love chestnut stuffing, with mashed potatoes on the side. And your dad has to have homemade cranberry sauce. But that’s about it. Maybe some pie for dessert.” Change Thanksgiving? What was she thinking?? The next day I heard that our Pilgrim ancestors didn’t dine on turkey at all for their first American feast. Figures. I bet they grilled hamburgers.
I remember how disillusioned I felt when I found out December 25th isn’t the actual date on Jesus’ birth certificate. Turns out he was probably born in summer or fall. See, that’s when shepherds are out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night—when it’s warm. It snows in Bethlehem in December; but even with all that white wooly fluff for insulation, smart little sheep don’t bed down at night in snow drifts. Even Jesus didn’t have a white Christmas.
So what is it that my heart is really looking for while I pursue traditions? Contentment? Security? Peace? If I can’t have a real tree anymore because we’re allergic to them and they’re a fire hazard anyway, is that a deal breaker? If the kids grow up and move away and have their own lives and no little voices wake us up at five a.m. to see what Santa brought, will that throw me into a depression? If the economy is bad and the Grinch does steal all the decorations and presents, can he steal the song in my heart, too?
If I never live where it snows, can I still enjoy Christmas? What am I REALLY dreaming of, if a snowy Christmas morning isn’t the panacea I’ve always believed it to be?
I’ve watched so many Hallmark movies, I think I’ve been blinded by the tinsel.
Far away from all the wrapping paper and decorations and exhaustion, a baby sleeps while angels celebrate and shepherds stare at Hope disguised in swaddling clothes. A teenage girl recuperates from childbirth and wonders what qualifies her to mother the Son of God. And a world bathed in darkness for thousands of years squints in the first Light since creation.
It’s time for me to pause. To let go of unrealistic expectations. If snow in December was all that great, there’d be no such thing as snowbirds. It’s time to relax, refresh and rejoice in the promise of God’s unconditional love and the Package in which it was wrapped. ‘Tis the season . . . to let go.
I think I just saw a snowflake fall.