Joy in the ordinary

It's the day after Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful Advent season and are excited that the Lord will come again one day - not as a baby but as a triumphant king who will make everything right.

How was your Christmas Day? I must say that ours was quite happy - the best one in years, according to my husband and I agree. There was nothing unusual about it. We had everyone over on Christmas Eve, ate delicious food and unwrapped gifts. On Christmas morning we all slept in a bit (that's the beauty of having teenagers), got up, unwrapped gifts, ate more delicious food and lazed around the rest of the day. It had  snowed overnight as well so we had a beautiful white Christmas.

It was all rather ordinary. In fact, celebrating Christmas is an ordinary annual occasion.

Christmas always makes me think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here was an ordinary girl living in a typical farming community in the Roman Empire. She and her community worked hard to stay alive. They were all poor, yet they had a rich heritage with the promise of a coming king who would end all of their strife.

One day Mary's life turned upside down. An angel visited and told her a marvelous thing. She would bear the long-awaited king - the Messiah. Now her life was anything but ordinary. Her obedience led her on a great adventure marked by delicious joy, wonder, grief, sorrow and peace that passed her understanding. However, she still led an ordinary life by everyone's standards. She didn't leave her culture, nor was she escalated into a life of luxury and ease just because she carried God's son. If anything, for the first two years at least, it was the exact opposite. Once everything calmed down, however, she and Joseph settled down to an ordinary life. She was a mother. She was a wife. She raised her children and the family worked hard to survive like so many of us.

The ordinariness of Mary's life adds wonder to the Christmas story. It brings full meaning to the term Emmanuel, which means "God with us." If God had come to Herod's family, or some other aristocratic clan, rather than living among the people who worked for their survival, the story would lose its wonder. Knowing that the God of the Universe placed his son in the midst of regular people lets me know that God truly understands us. God knows how hard we work. He has done it too. God knows temptation, boredom, sickness, death, joy, laughter, compassion, sorrow. God rejoices in and chooses to work in the ordinariness of life.  He chooses ordinary people through whom to accomplish his purposes here on earth.

It is because of God's presence that we experience joy. Even in our most ordinary times, his presence can add a sense of wonder to everything we experience. His presence somehow makes the hard times endurable.

On Christmas afternoon Mike and I decided to take a walk. Our neighborhood is located in a farming community so there are empty fields to the south of us. As we walked by one of these fields we noticed that there were hundreds of Canada geese on the ground with more circling overhead so that they too could settle down. It was an awesome sight! Mike and I stood still watching them fly in descending circles for a little while and finally land. Then, as soon as they got comfortable a car driving on the road next to the field frightened them. They were in the air again madly honking. I couldn't help but laugh. That car wasn't going to drive into the field and mow them down, but they didn't know that.

It was all so ordinary, but it was beautiful.

The delicious joy and deep peace I felt made it beautiful. Mike and I talked about how good the day was this morning and wondered what had made the difference. Now, as I reflect, I am sure, that it was a direct result of concentrating on the Advent readings and adding tangible elements to our celebration. By doing so it appears that we invited the presence of God to flow through our festivities and add wonder to the ordinary celebration of Christmas.

This is true for every day we live. God's presence adds joy to life. How can we bring that presence in to the ordinary everyday flow? How can we maintain that joy despite circumstance? It's something to consider.