Christmas Eve 1992 will forever live in my memory as the most magical in my life. In typical Weinhold fashion, my parents were hard at work that morning preparing nothing short of a feast for a house full of family and friends on Christmas Day. The oven was fired up, the refrigerators were filled to the brim and the Neil Diamond Christmas album was playing on repeat.
Until about 7 p.m., the day was predictable, but festive. We had gone to my grandmother’s in the late afternoon and were returning home to enjoy some hot cocoa and cookies before the 11 p.m. candlelight service at church. We got home from my grandmother’s, only to discover the power had gone out while we were gone. Instead of walking into a toasty home with the lingering aroma of cookies and casseroles, the house was ice cold and, as an added treat, a pipe had burst in the bathroom, so a tiny skating rink was forming on the bathroom floor. The magic of the day had quickly been replaced by frustration, helplessness and more than a few expletives. As my sister and I lit candles and held flashlights to aid my parents, I remember saying, “Well, I guess Christmas is cancelled.” (As an adult now, I recognize how absolutely ”not helpful” my unsolicited teenage commentary was!) “Christmas is absolutely not cancelled, it may just look a little different,” my dad responded. As the hours of cleanup dragged on, my mom hinted that it was time to get ready to go to church. This obnoxious teen couldn’t believe that we were actually going to church and leaving the frigid mess behind. We got in the car, the same one we were just in only a few hours previously, only to find that it wouldn’t start. The evening was rapidly swirling from bad to worse. Without so much as a pause, my dad said, “Well, it seems we were meant to walk to church tonight.” We climbed out of the wood paneled station wagon and began to make the short, half mile, trek to church. Before we reached the end of our block, my dad reached out for my hand and gave me a quick wink. My mom was carrying my little sister and as if God had commissioned Norman Rockwell to paint a winter wonderland as a counter to our less than festive evening, snow began to fall. As we approached the church, the bells began to ring and the four of us entered the sanctuary covered in the largest snowflakes I’ve ever seen.
At midnight, we made our way back home, laughing and singing without a care in the world. As we approached our block, we placed friendly bets on whether or not the power would be back on. It wasn’t, but unlike a few hours earlier, we couldn’t have cared less. The blanketing of the snow, the beauty of the candlelight service and that impromptu hand-in-hand walk were all we needed to warm and center us.
That Christmas was, on its face, one most folks would choose to forget. But for me, it will go down in history as the most beautiful Christmas of my life. I hope to be open to finding and experiencing similar small moments of magic, wonder and tranquility this year in the midst of the stress and chaos.
Creator of All Good Things~This year, enliven our spirits when we find ourselves on the verge of an emotional power outage. Blanket us with wonder when the stress of the day-to-day leaves us cold. Illumine our hearts by the warmth of a zoom call when we are missing holding the hand of a loved one. Open our eyes to the small miracles and blessings that surround us, even if it takes a flashlight to see them. Hold us and the entire world in your hands, so that we might find home, by another way.