On the Second Day of Christmas

It took me a minute to figure out what was going on as I woke this morning. I was awake before my alarm and as I lay in bed, I had to orient myself. What was going on was silence. What I wasn’t hearing was the wind. When I went to bed last night the wind was really whipping through our neighborhood. There were times when it was difficult to distinguish the trees and houses across the street from our home. It was a genuine northern plains blizzard. We’ve spent enough winters in this country to know what that means and to know how to stay comfortable in storms. We had no plans for going anywhere, which was a good thing because there was a “No travel advised” notice out for all of Pennington County.

The storm was, of course, way bigger than a single county. According to the SafeTravel USA website, Interstate 90 is closed from Sheridan, Wyoming to Chamberlain, SD. That’s 450 miles of highway closed to all travel. That has a pretty significant impact on transportation in the area. Without the Interstate, groceries are not coming into our town. Mail and package delivery grind to a halt. Plenty of other things are disrupted.

The disruption is minimized in this particular storm because of the timing. Today is observed as a holiday by many businesses. With Christmas landing on a Sunday, banks and government offices and a lot of businesses were planning on being closed today. There is no school, so the busses can remain parked. We had no plans of going anywhere, so spending the morning digging out and clearing our driveway is a good plan for our day.

All in all, the impact of the blizzard was a bit less than we anticipated. We may have set a record yesterday morning for the lightest attendance at a regular Sunday morning worship service in our church, but the small congregation that gathered enjoyed the intimacy of worship and a time of fellowship before we all scurried home ahead of the heaviest snowfall and before the winds picked up. The streets were a bit slippery due to freezing rain, but we had no troubles getting around. It would not have been the same story in the afternoon. By then the county had issued the “no travel” advisory and we would have cancelled the service, had we planned one. The 4 pm gathering of The Well in which I usually participate on Sundays had already been canceled, so there were no difficult decisions to be made.

So the second day of Christmas 2016 is staring out calm and peaceful. The new snow is beautiful and at the moment there are no tracks in the street out in front of our house. There will be no newspaper today, so our carrier gets a day off and doesn’t have to be out busting drifts. I haven’t heard any snow plows yet and I hope that the plow drivers get to sleep in a little bit. There is no rush to get things dug out.

For years I have found deep joy in the season of Christmas, but I find more peace after the first day has passed. Things are often a bit hectic and busy. We enjoy the celebration with big meals and exchanging presents and other activities, though our family often has chosen a different day for our big events because of the intensity of activity at the church on Christmas Eve. This year, we were home from church before noon and had the entire afternoon to nap, prepare a modest feast for two people, call family and friends and enjoy a pleasant dinner. We have been married for a long time and we think in very similar ways, so we also enjoyed a good laugh at the fact that we both chose the same gift to exchange. Our secrets in purchasing and wrapping the packages were mostly from ourselves as we completely duplicated the gift. At least we knew that the gift was something our partner wanted! Our children and grandchildren were thoughtful with their gift choices as well.

Since we will not be entertaining guests during this season, this is a good time for us to sit back, relax, and savor the blessings of Christmas. From a theological standpoint, Christmas is in some ways an easier holiday than Easter. Love being born in the form of a baby is so natural and so evident in the way our world works that one doesn’t have the intellectual challenge that wrapping your head around resurrection presents. Still, the gap between what we know to be true about Christmas and the way we live our lives warrants careful reflection.

In the Western Church today is observed as the Feast of St. Stephen. It is observed on December 27 in Eastern tradition churches. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. In our corner of the church, we don’t make much of St. Stephen’s Day. For most folk, the day is simply a day to recover from some of the excesses of the previous day. A bit of exercise is a good response to what may have been a bit of over eating. A bit of cleaning is a good response to the clutter of unwrapping gifts. Throughout the United Kingdom the day is often referred to as Boxing Day - a day to remember the postman and other delivery personnel with a special box or package of treats. This, too seems like an appropriate response after the intensity of pre-Christmas deliveries. The second day of Christmas is also a good time to tell the story of Good King Wenceslaus, who shared his meal with a poor peasant family, and the page who struggled to follow him through the winter weather until he discovered the trick of walking in the king’s footsteps.

It appears that for us this morning the “rude wind’s wild lament” is ceasing. Soon it will be time to bundle up and get to work on clearing the snow and getting ready for what comes next. But for now, in the predawn quiet, there are a few moments of peace.

Ahh . . .

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!