when we found out that we were moving to baltimore, one of the HUGE advantages for me was the fact that i'd get to be close enough to new york that i could come back to our church there for christmas eve service.
i had grown up in that church, come to faith in that church, gotten married in that church ... the list goes on and on. when i think of my favorite pieces of real estate, it's at the top.
and christmas eve was always my favorite service there. when i was a kid it was because i was involved in the service (even played a modern-day mary once ... the only weirdness was that due to a lack of boys, my brother played joseph. weeeeeird) and after the service, all my friends and i would exchange christmas cards and small gifts. and as i got older, the service changed, but the feeling didn't. it was always a little dim, and cozy, and full of family. a large group of people that i'd grown up with and spent my life living alongside. and we would come together to celebrate the great miracle of the incarnation of God becoming man to cross the great divide of depravity and change the human condition forever, singing the beautiful songs that describe this miracle. the love was tangible, not just between the people in the room, but also between the people and our God.
so when steve got an extension on one of his final papers that gave him until december 23rd at midnight, i cringed a little, knowing that it would make for a crazy trip up to new york from baltimore, and that there might not be much rest for him. he assured me he was confident that that would not be the case, but when the morning of the 24th rolled around, all his beleaguered body was able to give him was a measly 20 minutes of rest, all night.
let's just put it this way ... my reaction invoked God ... but it didn't refer to the incarnation. (more so to the whole damnation thing.) and my attitude wasn't so much that lovely, worshipful, adoring attitude i'd pictured us having that evening. more anger and selfishness and frustration.
i was sitting there at 7a, picturing the next part of our day: the drive up i-95 on a holiday. and usually, that's enough to drive anyone to swear, but now it was clear that steve would be unable to drive for severe lack of sleep (literally, the man had had about 4 hours sleep over the course of three days). so that left me, the pregnant woman, to make the trek. never mind that every other time i'd traveled since those two pink lines appeared, i'd gotten really sick.
[picture me in a rest stop bathroom, my face over that little hole in the sink counter for the paper towel trash, emptying the contents of my stomach. and when the wretching stopped, laying my forehead on the cool counter top, hoping it would help to calm my body and settle my nerves. all while a poor college girl tried to wash her hands at the other end of the counter. i still wonder what she thought of the puking woman in the rest stop bathroom.]
i saw hours of frustration and sickness, and was picturing us exhausted and worn out when we finally rolled into town, and probably missing the service all together.
so yeah, not so merry and bright. ifyouknowwhatimean.
but this post is about grace. grace from God and grace from my husband. because let's be honest ... i was throwing a temper tantrum about how i wanted christmas to go. meanwhile, steve was probably seeing imaginary people from lack of sleep ... and i was complaining that i would have to drive. but the man didn't yell at me, or get frustrated, he just helped me get everything ready, packed up the car, and did everything he could to help us get to new york, (which even included driving the second half, after he'd had a good nap in the car).
and you know what? the traffic on i-95 was surprisingly easy. and i only dry-heaved once, and that was because i waited too long to eat. and we made it to new york not only in time for the service, but also in time to settle in where we were staying and go out for sushi before church. i got everything i wanted out of christmas eve, and then some. and i seriously did not deserve it after reverting to a toddler that morning.
so i pretty much got to learn about what christmas is all about, first hand, all over again. it's about getting what you don't deserve, because someone loves you so much, they're willing to forgive your faults and give you grace.