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Christmas Eve 2006
Today was typical of most dark December winter mornings. I am an early riser but procrastinate indoors, reading and responding to emails, fixing coffee, eating my breakfast, and making the walk to the mailbox in pitch dark to get the newspaper. I don't like doing barn chores in the dark if I can avoid it, so I try to postpone until there is at least a little light peeking over the foothills to the east. I keep one eye out the kitchen window as I sit reading at the table, watching for Mount Baker to slowly appear in silhouette as dawn approaches, knowing that is my signal to get dressed and go out to feed the horses.
I wasn't prepared for what this morning brought. Given the number of things I needed to attend to today to prepare for Christmas, I was more than a little preoccupied. As I sat with my nose buried in the newspaper, and my mouth full of oatmeal, outside the hills began to glow orange along their crest, as if a flame had been lit and was spreading from the shadows. It caught me unaware, appearing in the periphery of my vision. I had to shake myself from my preoccupation to stop what I was doing and gaze awestruck at the spectacle. I quickly realized I was missing the opportunity to capture this brilliance on my camera to save and share. The orange paintbrush strokes were reaching higher in the sky, bathing the glaciers of Mount Baker and stretching down to the Twin Sisters peaks to the south. It was startling transformation of the ordinary to the extraordinary. By the time I'd grabbed my camera, exchanged slippers for muck boots and then raced outside in my bathrobe to capture it, it was gone. In under 2 minutes the sky had faded to gray, the mountains snowy white again and the rain began to fall. All was ordinary again. It was as if it had never happened and I would never have any proof that it did.
Yet I write about it because for a few moments glory shone right in my own back yard and it shone on me. But I have no "proof."
We don't have photos of what the shepherds saw that night when the angel of the Lord came to them and glory shone all around them. We don't know what the heavenly host looked or sounded like but we know their timeless words of "peace on earth, good will toward men". We know that the angels then left the shepherds to stand awestruck in their fields, and all became ordinary again. Yet the shepherds themselves had been transformed. They had experienced glory, compelled to tell others what they had seen and heard though they were neither gregarious nor articulate. They were most unlikely witnesses of that first Christmas eve and we remain unlikely witnesses each subsequent Christmas. The glory shines all around us but we tend to remain preoccupied, too busy to notice and therefore unable to appreciate what has been given to us.
Nothing will be ordinary again as we are transformed. For unto us a child is born and a Son is given.