Our sons are now living in two different cities in Texas which complicated going there, so we began to think about the Grand Canyon. Staying in a lodge and spending quiet time with God in one of the most beautiful parts of creation seemed like a great plan for Christmas. After a particularly hard teaching day for Jeff, we pulled the trigger, made reservations, and started dreaming about the trip.
In early November one of our sons called to say that since they weren’t coming to Indiana for Thanksgiving, he, his brother, and their girlfriends would like to come for Christmas. We told him about our "tentative" Grand Canyon plans, but also that we could cancel the reservations. After hanging up, Jeff said, “You know this is a no brainer, right?” As soon as they bought plane tickets, we cancelled the reservations.
For the first time in memory, I created, ordered, and sent Christmas cards rather than New Year’s cards (see above). I felt pretty impressed with myself. However, if you read the greeting on the front of the card, you might catch my mistake. In the rush to finish quickly, I was stupidly cavalier about the weather.
After turning in semester grades, Jeff and I began preparing for the kids' long-anticipated visit. We planned how we could spend time with both sides of the family during the short visit. We stocked the refrigerator with food and drinks we don’t normally buy. We put up a tree and pulled out all the Christmas decorations. We rearranged furniture, filled air mattresses, and found plenty of warm blankets. And we watched the weather predictions worsen as Christmas approached.
Driving to Indianapolis on a Thursday night in a winter storm went better than we expected. We circled the airport waiting for a text that they’d boarded the plane in Dallas before parking, but as they stood in line to board around 11 p.m. their flight was cancelled. They rebooked flights for the next day, and we spent the night at Jeff’s sister’s home in Indy.
We woke up to a text message that their flight from Chicago to Indy that day had already been cancelled; TJ broached the idea of renting a car in Chicago or us picking them up at O’Hare but looking at the weather maps that didn’t seem like a smart idea. We weren’t confident the flight would even make it to Chicago. They flew back to Austin to revise their Christmas plans, and we drove back to Tyner to begin undoing all the careful preparations we’d made. All that work for nothing. So much disappointment.
Our Advent series had focused on John the Baptist’s ministry preparing the way for the long-anticipated Messiah. We focused on preparing our hearts and minds for the birth of Christ during the four weeks of Advent. Christmas morning our church service was cancelled due to cold temperatures and icy roads, but Jeff and I decided to go to the church in case someone didn’t get the message. We lit the Advent wreath, turned on the Christmas lights, and played some quiet music. We prayed and soaked in the peace, the light, and the presence of God.
Despite our disappointment in not being with our sons, God’s Son was with us. He came in the way the prophets and John the Baptist said that he would. The preparation for Advent had not been wasted. I realized that the feeling I had on Christmas morning in the church was what I had anticipated feeling at the Grand Canyon (without the amazing scenery, of course).
We are not the only people whose Christmas did not turn out as planned and anticipated this year—not just due to the weather but due to life circumstances. And lest you think I’m too saintly, I will confess that I’d trade that peaceful Christmas morning for having TJ, Will, Kathy, and Madi with us in a heartbeat. Yet I am grateful for a God who is with us in our rejoicing and in our sorrow.