As I left church on Christmas Eve I noticed five deer grazing through our “back forty.” I typically see these deer on Christmas Eve (technically Christmas Day). I haven’t seen them on any other night. I call them Christmas deer. I look for them on Christmas; they rarely disappoint.
This year as I watched them peacefully make themselves at home at St. John there was something holy about the moment. See, at 12:00AM on Christmas Day things feel different at St. John. In fact, things feel different in Williamsville. The world seems different. Stars shine brighter. Life is calmer. Individual snowflakes seem precious - each in their own way. The world is quiet. Silence speaks. The Divine seems near.
As I drove away from church I thought briefly about the faith of those deer. How wonderful, I mused to myself, that even the deer know to worship baby Jesus on this night. How great is it that creation itself pauses for adoration!? I thought of the animals present at that first Christmas (a donkey, camels, and sheep) and gave thanks for the ongoing piety of creatures big and small.
And then it occurred to me…
The deer probably didn’t go to church to worship.
What was different about this night had nothing to do with Mother Nature or devout deer, but me. I then realized that I probably don’t see those deer on other nights because I’m not at church at midnight on other nights. These “Christmas deer” are probably the same ones who leave tracks in the snow and mud on ordinary days too. These adorable deer are probably the same pests who’re eating our arborvitae and leaving landmines in our yard. These Christmas deer are just deer.
What makes Christmas Eve and Christmastime special is not that things are different or that God is different. It is not special because God is closer to us than normal (God is never nearer or farther from us than God is right now). What makes it special is that we are different. We choose to be different. We choose to gather in a room with strangers, turn the lights off, light a candle, and sing. We scheme up ways to honor people we love with gifts. We take time off of work. We make time for people. We party. We pray. We praise.
God is not different on special days of the year. We are. On certain days – especially on holidays – we change. We change our routine, our mindset, our patterns, and, in many cases, our spiritual awareness. In that transformation, we notice that which is and always was in new and holy ways.
And so, the invitation comes to us not just on Christmas Day but every day: will we make room for God today? Will we be changed today? Will we, as the Apostle writes, allow for the transformation of our minds even right now? Even in the midst of work and crazy schedules and a life filled with the ordinary, will we keep our eyes open to see God at work?
Will we make time look for deer peacefully grazing in a vacant field today? Will we light a candle today? Will we seek God in our darkness today? Will we endeavor to honor God and those we love today? Will we count the stars today? Will we catch a snowflake today? Will we party today? Will we pray today?
There are no Christmas deer. There are no Christmas stars. There is no Christmas snow. There are just deer, the same stars, and cold snow. And all of it is singing God’s praise and calling you to do the same... Today.
Merry Christmas in January,