We have been bemoaning our fate these past few days, grumbling over the fact that on Christmas Day the temperature might be 77ºF (a possible new record will be set), and there will likely be thunderstorms. And we’ve been asking odd questions like, “Will we have to run the air conditioner when we bake?” Wasn’t it 28ºF just a few mornings ago, ice covering the roof of our house; there were windshields to scrape. Was I dreaming?
Georgia’s weather is odd on a regular basis. But this . . . is a bit unusual even for us. It reminds me of Tucson, Arizona at Christmas, except this year they will be about 10 degrees colder than Atlanta.
I stepped outside this morning and took a picture of a pink rose bud forming. Nature is pretty savvy most of the time, but it can get thrown for a loop, too, on occasion. This is one of those times.
I think it is safe to say I like things to be predictable. Oh, I love a good surprise as much as the next guy . . . as long as it falls into some pretty sane and predictable boundaries, that is.
But when something gets turned on its head . . . .
When your world is topsy turvy (so to speak), when the element of surprise becomes the norm, and disorder becomes the new order – that does not particularly appeal to me. At least, not without some counseling.
Reflecting on that this morning I was reminded – that is what this season is all about.
No matter your beliefs (or lack of beliefs) on the subject, you must admit that the Christmas story is topsy turvy in nature, anomalous at best. Consider this:
- A baby (ostensibly illegitimate) born to a young woman in less-than-humble circumstances is actually the savior of the world
- A small insignificant town is his designated birthplace
- His arrival is apparent to just a few persons, and they are the social outcasts
The Christmas story is like a rose in winter, or like streams in a desert. It is like the anomalous springtime in Georgia this December, 2015. Odd. Out of place. Nevertheless, from this moment on it will be in the record books.
I always find it interesting when the TV weatherman reveals record temperatures or statistics about other natural phenomena: the Little Ice Age of 1887-1888, the winter of 1935-1936, the flood of my wife’s hometown (Portsmouth, OH) in the winter of 1937. Often severe winters are preceded by an unusually warm winter.
[Ivan Doig’s classic book, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, recounts the plight of immigrants coming to Montana during a record breaking brutal winter; it is well worth the read]
Maybe you’re not curious (or self-absorbed) like me, but I have always been interested in knowing what the weather was like the day I was born. The day I was born the temperature in Chattanooga, TN had a wider range than normal; the low was 28ºF and the high was 66ºF. (I was premature, so I had to live in an incubator for a few days. The weather inside there was pretty consistent as I recall).
Clearly, my premature birth (4 to 7 weeks) was not something my parents had planned. My brother was a January baby, and I guess, had I gestated to term, I might have been one, too. Mother had to leave the hospital without me. Again, not according to plan.
In a very real sense when we celebrate Christmas (or Xmas if you prefer the abbreviated version which uses the first Greek letter χ for the word Christ) we remember, and pay homage to, the unpredictability of our lives. And I do not mean this in a negative sense; rather, the converse.
If you go to a 12 Step meeting like AA (or any number of others) you will eventually hear someone say, “My best plans and intentions got me here.” Or “my best thinking got me here.” It is, of course, an admission that often our attempts to plan, control, navigate, and lord over our lives ends in confusion. Persons are hurt, relationships are damaged, and our vision of how life ought to be just seems to crumble into the proverbial dust, much to our chagrin.
The Christmas story is all about good coming out of apparent ill, great coming out of exceedingly small, inexpressible joy being born from the sad and lowly, the proverbial beauty from ashes.
It went down in the record books, of course, as you know. We date our calendars by it in the Western World. And in a very real sense . . . nothing will ever be the same because of it. Countless persons have experienced life changing events because that baby was born.
Rather than see this year’s weather as an anomaly that feels less than Xmas, or as the result of an El Niño, I can’t help but see it as a reminder that what I can’t predict is often the very thing that saves me, that thwarted plans are very often the opportunity for a better-than-imaginable result to reveal itself.
And no, this is not just wishful thinking, not just the power of positive thinking; rather, it is the humble admission that I am not as powerful as I think I am, that sometimes a rose can bloom in winter, and that when it “rains on my parade” it is not necessarily a bad day.
This Christmas will go down in the record books, record temperatures will be put into computer data bases all across the country. And in the future you will occasionally hear a reference to the oddity of this winter. But this anomalous winter will change very little in our world. We will remark about it this year, and possibly the next, then it will only be referenced in passing.
But the first Christmas . . . . Well, that is another story altogether. Unpredictable. Unprecedented. Unending in its effects.