One of the crosses that those in pastoral ministry bear, is that we are never able to be with family for the holidays. Holidays are spent with church, with parishioners, with the community of faith. We can certainly celebrate holidays with family, but it is always “Christmas, observed.” For me, Christmas Day is a day of travel, formerly with car, this year with train. Rather than spending Christmas sitting before a roaring fire listening to Christmas music, I was spending it luggage in hand, amidst other Christmas Day travelers, en route to the mysterious land of upstate New York.
One thing I know for sure, traveling on Christmas is not like in movies. No cheery people trying to help one another, no Christmas music which celebrates the season, no Santa hats or bags filled with gifts. Instead there are a collection of people, irritated because they have to travel on Christmas Day, and the sound of the television in the train station which has Piers Morgan interviewing seemingly every person on the planet for three minutes each.
Christmas in a train station (or an airport for that matter) is nothing like it is in the movies, however, that makes sense, as life is not like it is in the movies.
When Jesus was born (whenever that was, probably not December 25), there were no Christmas carols, no Christmas greens or wreaths, no lighted stars that are perched atop evergreen trees, nothing that we associate with Christmas. I wonder if this, perhaps, is a good lesson for Christmas.
I am pretty confident that the Christmas carols lie.
“The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes; but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.”
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.”
“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.”
I imagine that the birth of Jesus was accompanied by worry, concern, all of the smells that are associated with a barn and barnyard animals. There was crying, screaming, pain, blood, and other bodily fluids.
There were people of low socioeconomic status (shepherds) who share in this earthly, yet supernatural, moment.
I wonder if Jesus’ birth was more like spending Christmas night in a train station rather than the beautifully decorated, lighted, and peaceful service of lessons and carols which is traditional for Christmas.
Perhaps the beauty of my Christmas in a train station is that I had the opportunity to try to experience joy in the midst of real life, in the midst of frustration, confusion, and need. In the midst of life as it is, not as it will be. A lessons and carols service that gives a glimpse of heaven, that is how things will be. Christmas in a train station is how things are. This is where we live, when we try to experience joy in the midst of how things are, knowing that they will be much better.