There is something special about the first snowfall of the year. I usually hate snow, but there are three exceptions. I love a good blanket of snow on Christmas and my birthday. And I love the first snowfall of the year. It happened this time around on Election Day, the first Tuesday in November. I hate election day.
I know, I know. Most of you are thinking, “so do I.” With all the nonsense about stealing elections and storming capital hill, we all have good reason to hate it. Considering what horrible options both parties put up for our choice, we would be crazy not to. But my reasons for hating Election Day go deeper. They have nothing at all to do with politics. I am not here to talk about our broken electoral system or the poor choice in candidates we always seem to nominate. Well… I guess I just did talk about it. But no more. My reasons for hating election day stretch all the way back to the first time I was old enough to vote. I didn’t. Not that year.
I still can remember that election day like it was yesterday, even though it is now nearly twenty-five years in the past. I was sitting in an airport lobby waiting for the first possible flight home when I got the news. I was too late. Less than an hour earlier, after a horrifying night struggling against a traumatic brain injury, my father had died. He got that injury bumping heads with someone on a basketball court. There are some words no eighteen-year-old kid should ever hear. “I’m sorry, he didn’t make it” are right up at the top of that list.
Everyone else in America was stepping into those ballot boxes and casting votes for their candidates. Some part of them knew those votes would make very little difference in the long run. I was thinking along a very different track. I was flying over our country, dazed and broken, trying to make sense of what my world had just become.
That was more than half a lifetime ago now. Time has been gracious to me. Thinking about this isn’t something that breaks me apart every time I remember my father’s death. Oh, there is the loss, but I am hardly the only person who has ever suffered a tragedy. Even in my own family, I have seven other siblings. Well, six surviving. One of my sisters is now partying with dad. All but one of my siblings are much younger than me. They did not get to enjoy as many years and memories with such a great man as my dad was. Honestly, at this point, there are years where I almost make it this whole way without one thought of the anniversary coming to mind. Almost.
I never fail to be in a down mood when Election Day finally comes. This year was no exception. It wasn’t necessarily a horrible day. I am a teacher, and my young students didn’t really behave any better or worse than expected. If anything, the fact that it was so cold and cloudy seemed to put a damper on everyone. I didn’t even have to struggle with their usual level of eager energy. When you are working with multiple classes of first and second graders, every day can be draining. That day, the classroom environment was pretty decent. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I just wasn’t in the mood to do anything more than the minimum amount required to function.
I got home and sat on the couch watching… something. Oh yeah, it was an episode of The Orville. This was the episode where that kid security officer puts herself through some security simulation. She wants to prove that she is worthy of the rank that she was given. She has her doubts because she is so young and insecure. I really do like Orville. It reminds me of the old Star Trek shows. That day I just wasn’t feeling it. I was restless and moody. It rained for a bit, but then it looked like everything had all cleared up. I was restless and moody and decided to go take a walk to clear my head.
It was cold. It was bitter cold. Before I made it two blocks from my house, I wondered if this was such a good idea after all. My cheeks were turning red. I pulled my black Net’s hoodie up to keep my ears from feeling the biting wind. It wasn’t a strong wind, but my right cheek and my nose could feel every icy gust that intermittently assaulted me. There were clusters of brown leaves wet and mushy in the grass. There were even more in a state of decomposition along the edges of the road. There were very few hangers-on in the nearly bare trees overhead. A month or two back, this would be a beautiful walk of orange and yellow, violet, red and green. Now, it was grey and brown. It was cold, wet, grey, and brown.
One lap was good enough. I reached the far side of the park and looped around to head back towards home. It was just starting to get truly dark, and the streetlights started popping on. You would think these lights would be on a timer, but that would make too much sense. All the lights seemed to rebel against conformity. The first one to pop on was about half a block up. Then the one I had just passed came on. It created a sudden shadow before me that disappeared half a second later as one more light decided to join the club.
That is when it happened. I was looking up at this most recent light to turn on when I saw it. As big as my thumbnail, a snowflake danced in that light as it meandered its way toward the ground. I stopped in my tracks to watch it. Then I saw a second one, and there was a third, and a fourth. Soon there were hundreds of these things gently floating down from heaven. Even the breeze had stopped its breath in awe of their beauty.
I wasn’t the only one to notice winter’s arrival. There were a couple kids who had braved the cold to play at that park. One little five-year-old boy was bundled up in blue and standing on the platform right at the top of the slide. He threw his arms out wide and sang loud and out of key, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Then he dove headfirst down that slide, laughing with glee all the way to the bottom.
My gloomy mood could not survive this beauty and childlike glee. The rest of my stroll home took me twice as long as the first half of my walk had been. I continued on my way with a smile on my face, taking in the beauty of everything I saw. First, the full version of the song that the boy sang played in my head. Then there was another, and another, and another. We are all familiar with the soundtrack of Christmas. It was that soundtrack that began dancing through my mind. It had started. The Christmas season had arrived on what has always been one of the gloomiest days of my year.
The snowfall did not last long. Nothing turned white that evening. But it was enough. God had taken a sad and broken day and turned it into a thing of beauty. That is what Christmas is all about. Some people absolutely love this holiday. Some hate it, and with even better reasons than we all might hate Election Day. That’s OK. That is what life is like. No matter what we or the world might think of the day, Christmas is all about how God stepped out of heaven and joined us in this walk of life. Over the next few songs, we are going to meet a modern-day version of Mary and Joseph. We are going to hear from children and adults throughout my town. Some of them are experiencing unimaginable difficulties. Others have life pretty good. Through them, I pray that we might better understand what it looks like when Christ comes down and enters our world. I also pray that we all might be able to hear that all too familiar soundtrack of Christmas with fresh ears.
Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!