OPINION: Christmas elevates the commonplace

I wrote this Christmas reflection many years ago, but if the days of early-rising young children are just memories for us now, these thoughts still abide. I hope your Christmas Day was special. – LG

It was 5:40 a.m. and still dark outside. The bedroom door opened and a child entered, anxious to get on with the business of the day. She was instructed to return at daylight.
At 6:29 a.m., she was back, this time with a younger sister in tow. It hadn’t been a very long winter’s nap for their mother and me, less than five hours. But it was time to call on the caffeine and the Christmas adrenaline.
When our son, roused by all the commotion, joined us and we finally made our way to the living room, we knew it wouldn’t be hard to shake the cobwebs. The children’s energy and excitement were contagious. It was another Christmas morning; cold outside, warm inside.
It is a day when all that we do seems charged with special meaning, when there is an increased awareness of surroundings and people and where we can find ourselves rediscovering pleasure in the most mundane of tasks.
It’s also a day when batteries are important. Our stock was not adequate. The best laid plans sometimes do go awry.
One toy couldn’t wait. So I slipped on a coat and ventured out to buy some power for it and some pleasure for its recipient.
A sunny early morning had given way to a gray, cloudy and chilly mid-day. A stillness enveloped the neighborhood. The smell of wood smoke wafted in the wind as I got in the car. I imagined the range of activity, emotions and family rituals unfolding in the houses I passed.
I reached the convenience store and yes, it was open, even on Christmas.
I decided to pump some gas before going inside. When the receipt came out, the date – 12/25 – felt like a keepsake. Buying gas on Christmas is different from buying it any other day. It seemed an especially important tank of gas, the act of purchasing it elevated above the routine.
Inside two women were working, looking cheerful enough considering where they found themselves in the middle of Christmas Day. One of them reached for a 9-volt Energizer battery on the rack behind the counter. I gave her a five, got back 73 cents in change and resisted the temptation to say “Merry Christmas” because I thought it might sound trite to her.
At a booth near the door sat a sixtyish man wearing a baseball cap and smoking a cigarette. In a convenience store. On Christmas Day. I nodded hello to him.
I jingled the change in my pocket as I walked back to the car. My son asked a question about the gas purchase. I explained to him how credit cards work and we talked about the value of pay-as-you-go on the ride home.
Later in the day we ate a big meal, watched a movie, made sure the kids brushed their teeth, kissed them good night, then went to bed, feeling tired, but a good tired.
Few of us will ever see angels in the sky proclaiming great tidings, or even lesser miraculous visions. Peak experiences of other kinds come occasionally to most of us – the spiritual and emotional highs that we remember for a long time – but they usually subside pretty fast. By and large, our lives are filled with the commonplace.
But is any of life really so common? Can it be merely common when God himself has not only created human life but entered into it and taken part in it – as one of us?
Christmas cries out in testimony to the sacredness of all human experience. Even getting up in the morning when you’re tired and smiling at the children when you don’t feel like it and drinking coffee and shaking out the cobwebs. Even buying gas for the car and batteries for toys and working in a convenience store and nodding hello to somebody and talking with your son about credit cards. Even eating a meal and watching a movie and brushing your teeth and going to bed. Maybe even especially such as these.
I have never seen an angel, much less a multitude of the heavenly host. I have seen a lot of the common things of everyday life. On Christmas they seem sacred. Maybe that’s because they are.

Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd. gray@djournal.com.

Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal