Sheri Wren Haymore
We were traveling along the coast of Maine with our friends Don and Carolyn a few years back. Don, ever the storyteller, began to entertain us by making up this story: A man named Reddington Pierce is driving on the turnpike in his 1967 Audi convertible. Green. He comes to the toll gate and sees, in the booth, the most beautiful woman, with long, curly red hair. So taken with this woman is he that he asks her name. Guinevere. Well, Guinevere, says Reddington, I know this is most unusual, but what time do you get off work? I’d like to meet you for coffee after your shift. What Guinevere doesn’t know is that Reddington has a dead man’s body wrapped in plastic in the back of the Audi, and he needs her help to get rid of it.
Over the next two days, Don kept us laughing with the adventures of Reddington and Guinevere. “Chapter Five,” he’d begin, and off he’d go with more of the silly tale.
We hope there’s a point to the story.
We hope it all works out.
We hope the story never ends.
Here’s the thing about hope: without something solid to hang it on, it can get a little wobbly and leave room for doubt. We might say, “I hope those doctors know what they’re doing.” “I hope for a miracle, but…” We pause a beat because we can’t be sure. We try to shove a bit of hope in the gap, but the words get frayed on the edges.
This is where Christmas comes in. In the Christmas Story, God Himself, the Creator of all things seen and unseen, steps onto earth in the form of a baby. “How can this be?” asks Mary, when an angel brings the confounding news that she, a virgin, will be the baby’s mother. The angel patiently explains the details, and then says, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Listen to Mary’s reply: “Let it be to me as you say.”
How does Mary move from her confusion into trust? “How can this be?” I can’t wrap my mind around such an impossible thing! “Let it be to me as you say.” No matter what happens, I’m in! How does uncertain hope become an absolute knowing?
Perhaps if we slow down and take in the mystery of Christmas, we might see the answer. Mary breathes in the angel’s words, and there, in the unfailing word of God, she meets the God of the Impossible. And in the meeting, she comes to know, with certainty, that the God who has counted and named every star in the universe has certainly numbered every hair on her head.
We rush headlong into Christmas, briefly intrigued by the mechanics of how the Spirit conceived the Christ in Mary. “How can this be?” we wonder, then keep pushing through our to-do lists. Be still; sit with Mary and experience the hushed moments when Infinite Love envelops every cell of her being. Contemplate how she comes to know, perfectly, that her hope in that Love will never be in vain.
While I’m writing this, we’re going through our own crisis. Our little blind dog injured her eye while we were on vacation, and between the emergency veterinarian and our pup’s doctor at home, the decision was made to remove her eye as soon as we returned home. It’s gut-wrenching, let me tell you. We’re consumed by our doubts and fears. Here’s how I arrive at that place beyond hope: I know that the God who cares for everything that concerns me, cares for my sweet pup. It’s that simple and that profound.
Only a month ago, our dear friend Don, the author of the Reddington story, died. We are shattered. Every time I begin to sink into despair, I remind myself to hang my hope on what I know to be true. Because he lived with the God of Christmas in his heart, Don stepped into the very heart of his Heavenly Father the moment he died. And so, his story lives on.
Most of us, no matter how significant the Christmas story may be to our beliefs, tend to hang decorations in honor of the season. We string twinkly lights on the porch railing, dangle stockings from the mantle, hang a wreath on the door. This Christmas, as I hang ornaments on the tree, I will remind myself to bind my hopes to the things that I know to be true:
I know there’s a point to the story.
I know it all works out in the end.
I know, without question, that because of Christmas, the story will never end.