rest.jpgLet us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

How on earth is it possible to find rest in December? Probably not in sleeping late, clear calendar days, or a cease of activity. But I’m willing to bet that in the midst of a hustle-bustle month, the Holy Spirit can reign in our souls and provide rest – a “slowing down for perspective and gratitude” kind of rest.

Several years ago, Christmas Eve found us stranded in a diner in Clayton, New Mexico, along with a throng of impatient Texans attempting desperate travel to the mountains.

The highway department closed the road out of Clayton due to heavy snowfall, leaving us no alternate paths. Nowhere to go but back the way we came. And with darkness falling, the road wouldn’t open until morning.

The sprawling metropolis of Clayton offered no hotels or motels with available rooms (sound familiar?). So, the diner it was. We spread out in booths and on the floor as several waitresses bustled throughout the cramped restaurant with fluffy stacks of pancakes and hot coffee. Some travelers handled the situation better than others, but a cloud of discouragement and frustration settled over the diner.

An older gentleman meandered through the booths and tables offering a gentle smile and a hearty laugh. Turned out, he was the preacher of the town church. As he lingered in conversation, we came up with a plan for Christmas Eve: his little church held about thrity pews, which translated into at least thirty beds, even more for kids. Even though the church lacked central heat, the preacher assured us that the warmth from the kitchen oven, along with some blankets and heavy coats, would keep us comfy. After settling into our make-shift hotel, we could hold a small Christmas service. And hey, I could even play some sing-along carols on the piano. We came up with some resourceful and creative ideas, and we looked forward to an old-time Christmas Eve with whatever weary travelers chose to take part.

Gathering our tired, stiff bodies and heading to the car, the Pied Piper preacher leading the way, news came that the road had been reopened. Unbelievable. Even in the black darkness of the snowy night, some official somewhere decided it was safe to drive on.

All those Texans charged with new-found adrenaline from the road report armed themselves with steaming cups of coffee and cleared out of the diner. Along with a few locals, the preacher watched silently as we headed for our car. We exchanged tight hugs and thanked him for an “almost” Christmas Eve sleepover. We felt ecstatic to be heading northwest, and I believe the preacher felt genuinely glad for us. But we all left with a bittersweet awareness of missing out on some sort of adventure.

We’ve made that trip to the snowy mountains of New Mexico nearly every Christmas since. Never do I drive through Clayton without remembering our almost-Christmas spent in the tiny church with a spattering of families we never met before and would likely never meet again. I think of the preacher and his kindness and availability to those of us without a place to sleep. I think of the warmth of our extended family and the gifts of our children, and that we can celebrate Jesus’ birth wherever we are. It’s a bonus if we get to be with the ones we love. And it’s that kind of gratitude and Holy-Spirit perspective that makes me feel His rest and presence on Christmas morning.

Lord, thank You that we are able to celebrate Your Son’s birth anywhere and in any situation. Thank You, too, for those precious times we get to spend it with dear family and friends.

How can gratitude direct the emotions of your heart toward rest this Advent season? What and who are you specifically grateful for this Christmas?