“Did not a great grey servant
Of all my sires and me,
Build this pavilion of the pines,
And herd the fowls and fill the vines,
And labour and pass and leave no signs
Save mercy and mystery?”
–G.K. Chesterton, from the Ballad of the White Horse, Book IV
Fifteen summers ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Chicago. This Seattle gal by way of Southern California had never seen anything quite like that big city. The main thoroughfare of Michigan Avenue is umpty-some lanes wide, vast stretches of park hugging the shores of Lake Michigan on the water side, crazy, noisy traffic on the street side and bright sunshine that made my favorite Pacific Coast beaches seem pale.
Our taxi driver offered a few tips of places to visit once my husband was finished with his work day. Top of the list was the Ravinia Music Festival. “It’s jazz night tonight” he announced, and we love jazz, so off we went. Ravinia is the country’s oldest outdoor music festival on sprawling 36-acre grounds just north of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. We drove through one wooded neighborhood after another, villages (there’s still ‘villages’??) and towns that had been established over 100 years ago, lanes and lush green lawns in either direction. We were thousands of miles away from California literally and figuratively; it seemed like traveling through a magic world of days gone by.
We enjoyed the evening’s concert on a grand expanse of grass, and sighed when it ended. Following the crowds on foot back to our car, we traipsed along train tracks, hushed at the falling twilight. I suddenly noticed hundreds of pinpoint lights hovering in the air all around us. Fireflies! I’d never seen fireflies before. They weren’t make believe—they were real!
Who knew? I felt like a silly kid in this momentary, magical place. That July evening of jazz is forever embedded deep in my memory, thanks to the fireflies.
We want magic to last forever, especially during the Christmas season.
The holiday weeks are often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year; God knows we also W O R K to make it the most wonderful time of the year. Unspoken pressures and unrealistic expectations—whether from others outside or inside ourselves—can back us into a corner and leave us, if not defeated, a little discouraged.
Everyone does their best to manage the tricky equation of dealing with the pressure to provide nonstop happiness and endless magic for the kids in their lives. All the while we try to hold to the heart of Christmas—remembering Jesus. Most often though, all that fun, excitement and magic-making leaves us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed while the joy and peace we crave are lost.
What we really want at Christmas is a way to remember what matters, and maybe a new attitude about it all. (Lord knows, changing my head AND my heart is no small miracle.) So, how do we manage the magic? If it doesn’t last through Christmas, how do we hold on to the wonder?
Two ways: We enter into God’s mystery by mining His word and leaning into the miracles in our own hearts.
In this season of Advent, we’re encouraged to light our wintry way with God’s Word. Reading on the first Sunday of Advent, there’s the explosive promise in Isaiah 64 is to wait for our coming Savior,
64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
64:2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
64:3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
64:4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
The Second Sunday’s comfort rings out in Isaiah 40, the Third Sunday’s promise holds us in Isaiah 61 and in Luke 1, we sing with Mary rejoicing in Christ’s birth on the Fourth Sunday.
These passages contain much to meditate on; guided by the Scripture we are provided a place to pause over the mystery of God made flesh.
The reality of God’s word is as long-lasting as eternity, nothing temporary about it.
Another sure thing that will never fade? The personal miracles God has done in our lives. Whether it’s a change in our thinking or our attitudes, a new way of relating, a bigger heart for giving (and forgiving), those are all Godmade gifts that last when we receive His work in our hearts.
Christmastime contains the opportunity for mystery, miracles and magic.
But magic like the flicker of a firefly’s light is momentary, I want memories of a forever light that has not only come into the world, but will never fade away.
The mystery and miracle of Christmas.
Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory link up.