Christmas In August

 

Yellowstone Christmas in AugustSteamy air radiated from the asphalt as we crossed the road in front of the diner. Dad and I had traveled to Yellowstone for a nature writing seminar and a quick stop at Mammoth Hot Springs for an ice cream cone marked the transition from our leisurely tour of the park and three days of learning at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Huckleberry ice cream cones in hand, we wandered over to the hotel to see if Randy Ingersoll  was playing that evening. Inside the lobby, cool air carried the sound of music and slowed the purple flow of ice cream down our sugar cones. I could see Randy, but he wasn’t playing one of his original, Yellowstone-inspired compositions. He was playing something different, something I knew but couldn’t quite place.

We wove through the people milling around the more heavily decorated than usual lobby and into the Map Room where Randy sat at the piano. I waved and at the end of his song he stood and gave me a hug. He was wearing a tie.

I’d never seen Randy in a tie.

It was a Christmas tie. The song I hadn’t been able to place? A Christmas carol. And the overly decorated lobby? Christmas greenery. In August.

It was August 25. Christmas in Yellowstone. I’d forgotten.

Once upon a time, Yellowstone had a summer snowfall. Actually, Yellowstone gets a lot of summer snowfalls. This snow, however, fell on August 25. People—park concessionaire employees, probably—got a little festive. They celebrated and they decorated. Now, every year, Yellowstone’s establishments celebrate Christmas. It’s not about commerce. It’s about tradition.

According to park lore, for a lot of years, park concessionaire employees forded the Firehole River, hauled themselves up onto a boulder to decorate a tree which had managed to carve out space for its roots and its existence on top. The decorating was reportedly then undone by rangers who subsequently crossed the river and climbed the boulder themselves. It makes sense. There’s nothing natural about a Christmas tree in the middle of a river.

Christmas in Yellowstone. I’d forgotten. Actually, some days–the balmy ones and the cloudy ones, the snowy ones and, maybe especially, the scorching ones–I forget about Christmas.

That makes me sad, because Christmas forms the bedrock of my actual, everyday life. It’s as much the foundation in the middle of summer’s hottest months as it is  in December. Christmas is a celebration of a birth and a life, of a death and subsequent resurrection, of rebirth and new life. Christmas is not a one day deal.

It’s a celebration of a baby, God’s son, who came to earth to grow up, as baby boys do, into a man. He lived a fully human yet sinless life. He bore sin on his shoulders and suffered separation from His father. He died an unjust but necessary, sacrificial death to pay the debt for our sin so that we could—once again—be in relationship with God. And after three days, God raised him from the dead.

That’s something that matters every day. I live with the mercy and grace  of Christmas every day, but sometimes I forget to remember Christmas. And Christmas is worth remembering all year long.

If you’d like encouragement to remember Christmas in the coming months, I have something for you: I’ve recorded three short Christmas audios that can be delivered right to your inbox on the first of October, November, and December. If you’d like to receive these, just email me at natalie at alongthisroad dot com (or click the email icon at the top of this page) to let me know.  I’ll get you all set up.

Linking at Lyli’s place today.

Look at the Pretty Lights

Our headlights cut through the blinding darkness of the December night, illuminating the country highway as my littlest girl and I made our way home from church.

“Look at the pret-ty lights, Mom-my,” she called from her car seat in the back of the van. “Do you see the pret-ty lights? I like the pret-ty lights. Do you like the pret-ty lights?”

Like them? Yes.

See them? No.

At least, not like she did.

She, days shy of her fourth birthday, saw twinkly lights on the horizon and deemed them worthy of attention, of affection, of conversation. I, days past my thirty-ninth, noticed them and kept plowing into the night. I knew they were there. But she didn’t ask if I knew they were there. She asked if I saw them.

Acknowledging a thing’s existence is not the same as comprehending its presence.

So, no. I hadn’t seen the pretty lights. I’d glanced right past the glow they cast on the bleak winter landscape, overlooked that someone was celebrating, taken for granted that we have something to celebrate.

Seeing the lights required eyes concerned with more than pavement and progress on the season’s looming list—things to do and stuff to buy, clutter to clean and places to go. And those eyes were not mine.

They were hers.

Hers were the eyes of a child, eyes that came along for the ride while I did, while I bought, while I cleaned, while I drove. Hers saw beauty along the side of the road rather than racing ahead to the details of the destination. Hers attended to the small celebration in the now rather than fixating on the work of the later.

These days leading up to Christmas, these days of Advent, are not about pretty lights along the side of the road any more than they are about doing, buying, cleaning, and going.

They’re about watching. About waiting. About seeing Christmas for what it is.

And Christmas is a remembrance of what has been. That the long-awaited Messiah, Immanuel, God with us, left heaven to come to Earth. That he dwelt among men. And that he overcame the grave. It’s a celebration of what will be. That he’s coming again. And it’s an expression of what is. That once again, we are waiting.

Jesus called us to have the faith of a child. Children see the world clearly now, not dimly through a haze of details which cloud the mind as much as the eye.

Look at the Pretty LightsSo, look at the pretty lights. Do you see them? And look at the Light of the World. Do you see him?

Sharing stories at at Kelly’s Small Wonder and  Lyli’s Through Provoking Thursday.