Christmas is supposed to be the holiday of family, love, peace, and good tidings, of laughing children, of comfort with each other and the world. If one is Christian it is the celebration of the birth of Christ, the King of Peace. For others it is the Winter Festival of frost and snow, of quiet, and reflection. But all too often it is a season of hurry. Christmas is a season fraught with perceived dire personal consequences, of not buying the right gifts or sending the right cards, or not having enough money to do either. People drive themselves half mad with all of this. A trip to the mall during this season of joy and peace says everything of pushing, shoving, yelling, deep frustration, and anger, which spills out into the family and for many families, right upon the Christmas dinner table.
I ponder all this because this is a year in which I will be without family for the first time at Christmas. This thought at first struck fear into me, alone at Christmas? I thought back over the many years and all the many Christmastimes my family had. It all seems so near and yet set in a time now gone to all but memory.
One memory does seep back, the Christmas of the Herald Angel.
As was our family custom I did all the Christmas shopping. It was a chore I did not like but always did; my chore of having to face the crowds at the store, of looking at all the many unhappy people. But this one time I decided I was going to shop for Christmas dinner late at night. It was about 10PM when I finally got the courage to go to the local supermarket. I pulled up in front of the store and noticed there were not many people. "This is good", I thought to myself. I went into the store facing blinding white light from above and the droning of the Muzak Christmas music from every direction. The few people I saw looked haggard, tired, and unhappy. I was joyful -I was doing my Christmas shopping in record time. I was comfortable in the thought this would take no time at all and it would all be behind me.
Finally I finished my shopping and pulled up into a checkout stand line with only two persons in front of me. The woman in front of me picked up a Tabloid and was thumbing through it. The people in the lines looked dejected, unhappy, and weary.
I noticed a man in jeans and a lumberjack shirt walk in the store. He was about 6 feet tall, dark brown hair and blue eyes. He walked up near the front checker next to mine. He smiled and then boomed out to all, "Merry Christmas everyone." People looked at him with questioning looks; the women in front of me dropped her Tabloid. The checkers stopped checking. All went quiet. This man pulled out a harmonica from his back pocket and started playing Hark the Herald Angels, on his harmonica. The overhead Muzak had stopped playing. The grumpy faces of the people in the store turned to smiles. When the man finished playing his harmonica he paused with a big and broad smile. He then began singing "Ave Maria." The store became like a church and his voice was clear and warm. He finished his song and then said; "Merry Christmas and God bless you all!" He turned and walked out into the dark Christmas night.
Oddly the Muzak started up again. People looked at each other with smiles, and the checkers started checking again. When I got up to the checker I said, "really great of you guys to do that with the Christmas man!" The checker looked at me and said, "we didn't do that, I don't know who that was, weird huh"? A warm joy came over me. I smiled.
I figured it was God's Herald Angel bringing us a special message of Peace, Joy, and the Love of God; all we must do is open our ears to His music divine.