An Extraordinary, Ordinary Christmas

An Extraordinary, Ordinary Christmas

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.

Luke 12:6

Our challenge at Christmas, as every day, is to stop discounting the ordinary in search of the miraculous so we can see the miraculous in the ordinary. The Christmas stories of the Bible sound miraculous today because they are set in a time and place outside our daily reality. In addition, they are written in largely metaphorical, as opposed to literal or historical language. Most of the extraordinary nature of the stories is implanted by our own embellishments and romanticizing of the rather mundane nature of not only what was written, but of what likely happened. God came to earth as a child in difficult circumstances. Welcome to life on earth! God is here with us today, as God has always been. Life is hard at times, as life has always been. Even so, created life is very good, even miraculous and extraordinary, as it has always been.[1]

It is not that miracles do not happen that catch us by surprise; it is that we overlook so many of them in our search for something extraordinary. Our breath, for example. Or our ability to pick up a sheet of paper from the desk. Our beating heart. The variety of birds at the bird feeder are all miracles we take for granted because they are so commonplace. In spite of our amazing advances in science and knowledge we cannot create or animate the life that teams all around us. Not even close. Most of what surrounds us remains a mysterious conglomeration of miracles.

When my children were born, as when Jesus was born, angels sang and rejoiced. Not the angels of our own imagination that we have thoughtlessly inserted into the Christmas story, but real angels. The Bible does not portray angels as winged creatures singing and playing harps on clouds. They are messengers. And they most often appear in the Bible as people, although sometimes as disembodied voices or figures in dreams. The angelic praises for the births of my children came from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. It was a beautiful chorus, but it was not unique to us as the birth of most children brings such angelic praises, or so we hope. Our children, too, were visited by shepherds – ordinary, unfamous, yet faithful people we often overlook in our daily lives, like co-workers and members of our church family. And we were visited by “Wise Men” (wise people) – elders who had trod the treacherous journey of parenting we were beginning, offering their gifts of knowledge and their assurance that they would be there with us throughout.

It is written, and I agree, that nothing is impossible with God.[2] But experience shows that the vast majority of God’s work is incognito and appears mundane and commonplace because it happens all around us all the time. Our imaginations lead us into searches for God in faraway places when God laughs, taps us on the shoulder, and says, “Here I am!” Everything carries God’s fingerprint hidden in plain sight. Unfathomable, life-giving, life-sustaining works of amazing grace that force us onto our knees in reverent awe whenever we take a moment to treasure and ponder them, as Mary did in the Christmas story.[3] It is not that God’s normal work is not miraculous or awe-inspiring, but that we so take it for granted that we miss the extraordinary in everything we label as ordinary. And when we do not experience what we believe qualifies as a Christmas miracle we feel disappointed and cheated. Spoiler alert: The miracle is here, where it has always been, and where it always will be – with you and with me. Emmanuel.

And so my wish for you this Christmas is not for anything extraordinarily extraordinary. My wish for you is that your eyes be opened to the extraordinary in the mundane. It is only there that the miracle of Christmas – God with us – will always be present and available in all circumstances throughout the year and to the end of your days on earth. And yes, we often must search for it, just as the Wise Men did for the baby Jesus. But as author Richard Rohr often reminds us: “How we see anything is how we see everything.” Once we learn to see the miraculous in the mundane, our entire life experience will be extraordinary. The miracle is already with and among us. We need look no further than the ends of our noses.

Have a very Merry, Extraordinarily Ordinary Christmas!

[1] See Genesis 1:31

[2] Luke 1:37

[3] Luke 1:19

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