It is all quiet in the hotel now. The guests have departed to visit their children and grandchildren, bearing their gifts as they go. The silence of the lobby is punctuated by the clatter of the ice machine turning over new ice cubes and Christmas music playing on CD’s in the background. And here I am, exactly where I want to be on this holiest of all days in the Christian calendar, by myself.
Many years ago I discovered the special peace of Christmas Eve. When I was young I was all caught up in the tradition of our culture to rush about getting just that right Christmas gift. I would be oh so careful in wrapping the presents in appropriate Christmas paper, just like I saw in the movies and on TV shows about Christmas. I would take my profit sharing bonus from the bank where I work, and spend it all on Christmas presents for everyone from the mailman to my nieces, nephew, friends and coworkers.
These days I only buy Christmas presents for my Mother. Her 85th birthday is today, one day before Christmas. My Mother’s mother died when she wasn’t quiet two years old, shortly before Christmas Day. My Mother has told me many times that when she did receive a gift, it was usually lumped together with the explanation “This is for your birthday too.” Her mother wasn't around to protect her from such insensitivity. I always make a special effort to separate the two days. That is why I have always taken special care in selecting gifts for my Mother, one for her birthday and all the others for Christmas. I always made sure her birthday present would be wrapped in birthday paper.
This year I wasn’t able to visit my Mom this week to deliver her Christmas presents AND birthday present in person because of the weather. However, I did call her this morning and sing “Happy Birthday” to her, which has been our tradition for more years than I can remember. First nice sunny day, I’ll be on the road to take that 2 ½ drive to Pennsylvania to deliver her presents in person.
For now though, I will take in the special pleasure this night affords me. Working or not working, I have always been able to experience the promise of peace of this one time of the year. I believe that promise. Those Christmas Eves, when I did not work, I would turn down invitations to visit or party and instead I would stay at home alone. That is my way of celebrating Christmas.
In the past, when I was at home, I would stay up until midnight. Shortly after midnight I would look out of my bedroom window to the cold, dark night sky. Sometimes the stars would sparkle like sequins on a flasher entertainer’s jacket. On other nights, clouds would roll across the nighttime sky. But, even on those cloudy nights, the clouds always seemed to part and the moon would shine through, illuminating the cold landscape below. And, if I looked hard enough I could see one star that shone brighter than the others. Perhaps that star is Venus , perhaps not. But it is there, shining brightly, silently beckoning to me.
Tonight, as I drive down the road to my nearby home, I will look again up at the cold, December nighttime sky and feel that inner peace that I only feel this one time of year. That is the gift He has given me. I am at peace.