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In a highly unusual twist, I found myself tripping along a dark, downtown sidewalk in full regalia at an hour usually reserved for nestling cozily at home. Headed back from a Christmas banquet, it was necessary to stop in at the ‘Midnight Madness’ shopping spree on main street. Amid the decorations blinking in the street, crowds were bustling along, hunting madly for the hottest deals. Mobs of youth clustered together, laughing, texting and clamoring into one bulging store after another. As I say, not my usual cup of tea, but I had a couple of treasures in mind, and I wanted to see if the promised sales might bring them down to my level. Baa, humbug. No such luck. No joy in the bargains, but I suddenly realized that the nocturnal atmosphere itself was worth the trouble. What a night! In one of those inexplicable Albertan meteorological moments, the darkness enveloped us in a sensational, balmy perfection.

Can I even describe the magical, other-worldly quality of those fluffy snowflakes falling with sublime serenity? Crystal formations so large and clearly transcribed you could watch them dance. The unsullied glistening of virgin snowfall elevated every surface and flickered with iridescent loveliness in the atmosphere. I stood dead still on the deserted side-street where I’d been forced to park and just savored the twinkling scene. All is calm, all is bright. Drink in the sensation, my girl; mark it on your memory. Stand passive and listen to your heartbeat synch with the universe. Breathe out a prayer of thanks you were alive to see this before it evanesced away as mysteriously as it descended. My special treasure that evening was an idyllic, irreplaceable instant of time, so unspeakably fragile, yet hallmarked by eternity.

That’s really the trick, isn’t it? To stop dead in your mental tracks in the bustle and boisterous madness of this whirling season to seize upon these peerless moments when they suddenly swirl into view. While we’re so busy assembling our to-do lists, adorning our homes, or executing festive gatherings with precision of a military campaign, we may trample, unheeded, the fresh fall of grace. We might be miles down the road before it dawns on us that we forfeited a uniquely formed juncture to express our devotion or affection. That in our obsessive furor to get-it-all-done we rampaged over some soul sent to us for affirmation or attention. We plowed right over the manger in pursuit of our personal mandates, and there’s no rewind.

This is the season of divine visitation. It’s holy ground, so take your high-heels off. We’re here to be star-struck, stand astounded at magnificent, invisible choirs and grasp the significance of angelic manifestations. We’re supposed to wait, with bated breath for the impossible miracle and promised coming of something far greater than ourselves. This is what we are celebrating, after all. Step into the humility of Christ Himself. It’s time to lay down ego, pride, vanity and grasping to position ourselves for what God is doing.

In the ageless Christmas story, two elderly characters stand out like jewels. It’s Anna and Simeon.

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple, when the parents brought in the child, Jesus…

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:25-27, 36-28 NKJV

The most unlikely, past-their-prime candidates for glory were strategically positioned when the Messiah entered the temple for the first time. Experience and maturity taught them how to grasp a singular nobility; how to wait for important things. Their faithfulness positioned them for honor.

As I unpack treasured family decorations for the tree this year, I’m recalling fragile things I have not handled so gently. Irreplaceable objects got smashed. Times with family and friends in the irresistible passage of time that may never be reduplicated. Am I older and wiser? I hope so.

For the kingdom of God is not in meat and drink: but in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Romans 14:17 KJV

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