It was Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Charlotte and I invited our current refugee guests to join us on a driving tour of holiday lights. There was room in the vehicle for an interfaith evening of illumination and joy.
As we pulled out of the Atlanta Friends Meeting parking lot, I charged the three wise boys from the East with a simple task: at the end of our lights tour, let me know which home’s decorations were your favorite. As the search began, the instrumental holiday music I was playing through the car stereo was soon drowned out by a chorus of three enthusiastic cherubs. And when I opened the moon roof on this evening of the 800-year Bethlehem star, the passengers’ collective energy was out the roof.
Remember that I invited the boys to observe all the homes on our one-hour route and to share which was their favorite at the end of the drive. Well, the 4-year-old either didn’t understand or didn’t care because at the first home we pulled up to with elaborate lighting, he enthusiastically shouted, “Oooo, my favorite!”
Charlotte and I both chuckled and were so pleased to hear the pre-schooler vocalize a whole phrase, for it was the first we’d heard in the three weeks the family had already spent with us. But this was just the beginning of his proclamations of joy upon observing fantastical lights pierce this darkest of nights.
Every single home we drove by, if it had an elaborate light display, would elicit the same exact response and with the same volume and passion, “Oooo, my favorite!”
“Oooo, my favorite!”
That night a four-year-old Muslim taught me a critical Christmas lesson, particularly invaluable during this pandemic when wisdom calls us to be away from our loved ones.
This child did not focus on his past. He didn’t cry about the lights that were in the rearview mirror. Neither did he fuss and pitch a fit about what he did not have nor what might (or might not) be around the bend. Instead, this child stayed in the present and found in it a gift of grace.
No family seeks refuge that isn’t in crisis. The traumas in the rearview mirror of this family, from the oldest to the youngest, are authentic and unforgettable. Their unknown future is daunting and unclear.
But on this, the darkest of nights, unto us a child was our messenger of joy, peace, hope, and love. The present is a gift and, despite your circumstances, can be a favorite.