Last night I hosted our annual book club white elephant gift exchange. Initiated years ago when we decided that we wanted to meet in December but not have the pressure of reading a book, it has become a fan favorite. I have taken to making an attempt at writing a parody of the past year to the tune of a popular Christmas song and well, it's entertaining for me if no one else! I don our famous Santa Suit as I read the missive each year. This year's poem was set to 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and included references to many bizarre and wonderful things that took place over the past year in our group. What fun it was for me to recount these monthly gatherings and savor the books we read. For the record, our 2011 list included: Sarah's Key, Little Bee, Winter's Bones, Middlesex, Jane Eyre, Room, Stones from the River, and The Space Between Us. A very good, albeit rather sad, year! But, I digress. The good part of the evening comes when we begin the gift exchange. There's always one thing or another that gets a lot of attention and this year was no exception. A rare and treasured Little House on the Prairie DVD made the rounds a few times along with a weird looking angel-like ornament. My bowling and racing nuns were most avoided, having been recycled from a previous year! I ended up with what I wanted but cannot reveal what it was because Doug might get it in his stocking this year! There was a moment of tension when in the end, the last person to grab a gift pondered whether or not she would take my treasured acquisition. She was kind and settled for the nuns, hoping for points in heaven!
This evening exudes joy. We laugh...hard. And we joke...a lot. And we remember that sometimes life is not as serious as the themes our books set forth. But sometimes it is. And when life is hard, we try to be there for one another. I don't know what it is that brings out such silliness when we do a White Elephant gift exchange. (A white elephant, for those of you not in the know...are things in our house that we no longer want or use, usually of the outrageous quality and one wonders why we have them to begin with! It is amazing what will appear at these gift exchanges!). But these silly moments in our lives help us to break down barriers that open wide the doors when we are in real pain. I guess this reminds me in small part why Christ came into the world as a baby...to draw us near, to help us feel OK about being in the presence of the almighty. We can all cuddle a baby...but to stand before the Lord of the universe? Well, that's harder. As it is with friends, the moments we spend in laughter give us the courage to call during the moments of tears. God's intention for us as humans is to be available to one another so that we never have to walk life's road alone. That's why he came to us, as one of us...so we'd know that our God is always with us.
At Christmas we are drawn afresh to the baby...the easily approachable God in a manger.