We've been talking about groups of persons who were oh, so close to the Christmas story, but seemed to have missed it entirely. An entire inn full of families, a road packed with travelers, and still - still - there was no room for Mary and Joseph. Not even in a place like Bethlehem, a place that was home and was, somehow, not home - for them, for Jesus, for us.
And that's important this year. Because this year, especially, there are so many of us prone to miss Christmas.
We are stuck in a place that feels like home, but isn't. That should be home, but isn't. We are surrounded by family and friends, but we can't hold them close. Whether we like it or not, time is moving us toward Christmas morning, and we're all traveling together, and yet, somehow, we already have the sense that we're going to miss this Christmas.
We already have the sense that nothing special is happening here, that nothing beautiful is happening this year. We are going through the motions, but it doesn't feel like anything. We're trying, desperately, to make it something, but it still feels hollow somehow. Sales of Christmas decorations have skyrocketed, more homes than ever are decked out in lights and tinsel, and there's still this sense that we're probably just lying to ourselves. It might look like Christmas, but it doesn't feel like Christmas. Not with plexiglass between us.
Then, what happens is that we look around at all of the decorations and all of the lights and all of the cards and all of the yule logs and egg nogs and cookies, and we think that we're the only ones. We think that we're the only ones who just aren't feeling it this year, who just aren't sure about this Christmas. We think that we're the only ones who aren't in the Christmas spirit, whose holidays have been marred by all the things that they won't be this year, that they can't be this year.
What I want to say, what we need to say, about that is - it's just not true. You are not the only one. I am no the only one. We are not the only ones. The whole world is feeling the weight of this Christmas that wasn't before it even is. The whole world is feeling this crush of just...missing it.
Which means...that we are all traveling this road together.
That doesn't sound like good news, but it is. Because we know the Christmas story. We know the story of so many men and women who were right there - right there - for Christmas and still missed it. We know the story of those who had a place to lay their heads for the night and who didn't even go downstairs when they heard a newborn baby cry. We know the story of those who were traveling along that road and met Joseph and Mary and still didn't make room for them. We know what it's like for our imaginations to run wild with all of the what ifs, and because we know this, we can commit ourselves to not being what ifs this Christmas.
We can commit ourselves to recognizing our fellow travelers, to striking up conversations along this road. We can commit ourselves to coming downstairs, to leaving our own homes to discover what's going on in other places. We can commit ourselves, every time that we hear that something beautiful might be happening, to being a part of it. To throwing ourselves into this Christmas with family, friends, and fellow travelers in a place like home that isn't quite home, to the familiar in a strange land, to the new hope that arises on a wearying journey. We can commit ourselves to all of it because we know the untold stories of Christmas...and we can choose to be part of telling them this year. Wherever we find them. On this road that we're all traveling together.
And maybe, just maybe, if we can do that - if we can be intentional about meeting those around us in this strange place - we won't miss Christmas this year after all.