Thirty-one years today since that pick-up truck plowed into her little car, leaving her motionless. The spark snuffed out. Leaving her to sit and moan the occasional word. Rubbing constantly at her crusted eye, still swollen shut. Her lifeless hands and legs. No animated gestures to light up a room. They’re nearly all but gone, but for the sudden reflexive movement.
But there are times. When one sees it in her face- a knowing. It’s the way she sometimes looks at you, as if she understands. And in that knowing is found the deepest wounding – that’s where proverbial knife meets flesh and gouges. It cuts to the heart. And as she sits year after year after senseless year in that chair by the occasional window, I wonder. Do thoughts of Christmas miracles ever fleetingly pass through her mind? Does she know? Does she ever question why? And does God care? Is He with even her, there in the dark recesses of her mind?
It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to know.
And sometimes what we really want, but are afraid to voice in more than merely a whisper, is a miracle. A sign. A sense that God does care. That He is truly with us. That He’s not dead. That He’s alive. That His voice can still be heard as if over a rocky hillside speckled with dirty sheep. Grungy shepherds herding them along with stumped staffs. Heard in a little Jewish town with the lone sound of a newborn’s cry, a doting mother’s gentle lullaby heard softly in the still of the frigid winter night. As if in a dirty stable, sticky cow manure littering the floor. A filthy manger piled high with straw, roughly hewn: given as a bed. As if we were there. As if I were there. Because He was there- truly there among the people. In the messy, complicated jumble we call living. And that He is still here: in the present, the here and now. It is a miracle. For that is all we truly need to know in the stark reality of everyday living.
To know that He is with us. Emmanuel.
Emmanuel, God with us.
It is so easy to forget that truth when faced with the pain of loss- the pain of separation. Easy to forget in the midst of the trouble that is betrayal and rejection. The tragedy of disease and unexpected loss of both minor and grave proportions. Those harsh realities so peculiar and perplexing to as human beings. All is not always well. Life is not always easy- even at Christmas. Especially at Christmas.
It seems that Christmas time accentuates trouble. For life is difficult all year round. It is struggle. When financial stress touches down, wreaking havoc on families and marriages, trouble is there. When an unfortunate father walks out on his child or a distressed mother slits her wrists in a cry for help. Trouble is there yet again. When a child gets cancer or some other terminal diagnosis and suddenly life takes a turn for the worse: it’s hard to really sense God is with us through all of that. That He hears and He sees and He feels our pain. That He knows.
That He is there in the midst. Even in the midst of all that trouble and distress.
For all we really want is a miracle. A sense of His presence. To feel as the shepherds did the joy of knowing wonder. To experience as did that simple innkeeper the humbling knowledge of having room for a King. Preparing a way for the Christ-child’s birth. To know as did Mary and Joseph that even simple common, everyday folks can still receive the miracle of Christmas. Because all we’re really looking for is a sign.
All I am really looking for this Christmas is a miracle.
A friend wrote me the other day. Last year this time, her life was falling apart. Her marriage was in shambles. Her faith was being tested. She was experiencing trouble on every level. And I remember the day still when she looked me in the eye and said, “There is very little hope.” I remember those words. And I remember wondering myself, “Is there? Is there really little hope?”
And then. To receive her letter this week- knowing a Christmas miracle had occurred in her life. That her little faith had been multiplied. And that God had moved and increased her ‘little’ to make it filled to overflowing- that’s the miracle of Christmas.
And it can happen again and again and again.
Because God still moves in mysterious ways.
Even in the little things. In the details. Just this week, I lost something worth hundreds of dollars. It was an important item to me personally. And I searched high and low and in corners and crevices. I called family members, having them strip-search rooms so as to find that one little lost item. And when all seemed about lost, I had no sooner asked my mother to pray that I would find what I had lost, when God placed it right before my eyes. Literally. No sooner were the words spoken and I looked: it was there. As if by miracle. My little Christmas miracle.
And I don’t say all this to trivialize those miracles that have not yet happened, that are yet to occur- there are people in my life who are still hurting. Who are waiting for their Christmas miracle. Who have all but given up hope. Who believe there could never be a way. Whose faith seems so small.
I am here to tell you: God’s not dead. He’s a God that’s in the details.
And He still moves.
And even within her- I know He does. He still loves. He still understands. His heart breaks just as does mine. As does all of ours. And He’s there with her in the darkness of her room each night. He meets her in those desolate places where loneliness threatens to steal joy. He has not left her there alone. And time is in His hands.
Time is in His hands.
And though I may not yet understand the mystery of His ways. This I know for sure: He still moves.