There it was, indeed a table set for family and a few friends as well. The exquisite food, paid for by a relative in advance. A wise and generous relative, gone on a Christmas day past. Loved and missed at the table now.
The family, gathered in Jack and Julie’s home, every Christmas Eve to eat well and satisfy the gathering with exotic things. Brie, Lingonberry jam, Home baked bread out of the farm’s wheat. Tasty nuggets of chocolate treats and cookies made once a year. Treats, some pulled from the larder that are saved for this time.
There is a Christmas ham in the crock pot that simmered all day and filled the house with it’s savory smells. Appetites were honed and sharpened as the winter of winters was preparing another snow storm. Already the new sidewalk was drifted half over from the bitter sleething of fine snow. The wind had not abated much from the night and the drive home from a delightful worship service was fraught with drifts on the rural highway. Narrow triangles of show, now created by the dry snow the county plows had just cleared that day.
It is perhaps the only time that snow is seen as beautiful and appropriate. The old images of sleighs to visit. Pulled by a team of Percheron horses. The blankets and even a few hot bricks tucked in to be heated up again for the ride home. Wood cook stoves and wood or coal parlor stoves that worked pretty well at heating a home. No worry about the pipes freezing because there were none. The Gator’s have a painting of a sleigh heading for a church but the horse looks fake somehow in mid stride. Tough to convey motion in a painting. Jack thinks maybe a slight brush stroke of snow behind an upraised hoof would have done the job. Art critic.
Candle light services with luminaries out in the snow to entice and welcome. Classic songs to be sung, you know the ones. Everyone has them memorized. The big round wood stove in the corner (should be in the middle of the aisle thinks the same art critic) We all have these memories of times past before we were born. Stories passed down by past generations that had to walk miles uphill in heavy snow. To school as well as church.
Another image that Jack has is the short peace in the midst trench warfare in France. Soldiers apprehensive and then hearing the opposing army singing Silent Night in the enemies language. Slowly rising up from the trenches and walking towards one another, perhaps with a bit of whiskey or brandy to share. Impossible to contemplate with the guns and cannons silent the enemies meeting on no man’s land. Men’s vision to be truthful. The Man full of grace and truth who someday will come for you. This is the reason the fear was pushed aside. We have all been afraid a long long time, but Papa is here and He will take the fear away.
There is impossible joy in the midst of the world’s battle for many things. Power, possessions, and dominance.
We all know the story, even those of us who think the story of Christmas is only about being rewarded because we have not been naughty. We all think we are on the ‘better be good’ part of the perceived equation. It’s not any of those things. The reason that Christ’s Mass has the impact year after year is because the story is true and the good news is impossible to explain with only words. It is indeed a feast. It is felt and it is known by all men. It is joy and the present of good news that cannot be earned. It is indeed a Christmas present that must be opened by everyone that sees it and know what it is. The only present that still surprises with astonishment. Every time. It’s pretty good. The feast of life with Jesus Jack Gator