The kids string popcorn by the fire, untangle lights for the tree, curl sprays of shimmering ribbons, and I wildly dismantle the house. Losing a ring, a gift that had been sent to me from Iona Abbey, makes me lose it. Centuries of pilgrims had made the journey to the stone monastery in Iona, Scotland, to kneel low and pray long. And my Iona ring, a Celtic knot, was like a silver string around my finger, reminding me to do likewise, always, wherever I wandered.
And it’s lost. I pray.
In the back of bread box? Under dishwasher? Down bathroom register? 19 coins, innumerable pencils nubs, and a whole shovelful of legos are discovered under the couch cushions… but no ring. Not under mattresses, in vacuum cleaner, atop fridge. Nowhere.
Snow falls higher and the day draws closer and my sadness seeps through. Presents pile high with promise of gain on December 25th, but I keep thinking of loss, me the woman who had lost treasured silver circle and swept her house up in a flurry of searching (Lk. 15:8). I’ve lost the reminder to pray but keep the vigil. With the opening of every drawer, I’d hope, “Maybe here, maybe today?”
And then I unbend. I straighten up into it, look out at the gentle shake of flakes, and I see it clearly.
How much of my Christmas was genuine vigil, looking, seeking, hoping, for Jesus? Did I care this much about finding Him? This advent, how did I faithfully search for Him who comes for us?
That first Noel, ragged shepherds came with gifts of adoration for the God-Babe and found Him wrapped in rags, lying in a barn feed trough. An unexpected, messy place for Divinity descended.
I hadn’t looked there yet.
With the prayer ring lost and carols playing, I begin the true seeking.
We gather for holidays with extended family and hearts snag. A barbed word here, a snarl there. Is this a messy place to find Jesus? I keep the vigil… and find Christ in a listening hear, a lingering touch, a long grace.
On a starry night on a big stage, a special needs child slurs his lines in the Christmas play and we strain to decipher words and my eyes brim and spill. Is this an unexpected place to find Jesus? I keep the vigil…and find Christ in thunderous applause, the laughing eyes of smiling boy.
Children squeeze in close with fists full of sprinkles and bellies full of mirth and we deck out stacks of sugar cookies, fill bags with cheer for the prison ministry. Is this a giving place to find Jesus? I keep the vigil… and find Christ in loving the least who give us the most: the joy of giving without gain.
I rock a nauseous child in the lights of the tree on Christmas Eve, listen to tummy rumbling, wash a forehead with cool cloth. Is this a cradling place to find Jesus? I keep the vigil… and find Christ in simple closeness, in tending to the sick, the reason why He came.
Two weeks before Christmas Day in the morning, I lose a ring, but begin a pilgrimage to the holy ground of Christmas. And bowing there, I discover that Christmas can’t be bought. Nor can Christmas be created, with popcorn memories or handmade bows.
Christmas can only be found.
In the messy, in the unexpected, in the giving, in the cradling. Maybe here, maybe today, Christmas can truly be found.
Found in the promise with greatest gain: the Person of Christ.
Are you searching?
©2008, Ann Voskamp