May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. II Peter 1:2 (RSV)
By January 7, Christmas seemed a dim memory. My husband Alex had left for a conference overseas. Exhausted from out-of-state holiday visits, then the flu, I dreaded the lonely week ahead and the dark months of winter. But it's a family tradition to join our friends Bill and Melanie, Serbian Orthodox Christians who observe Christmas today, so I bundled up the children and headed to their Victorian farmhouse in rural Williamston, Michigan.
Driving there, I remembered our evening together last year. Alex, as the first male guest to arrive, represented the Christ Child and scattered wheat, nuts and coins in the four corners of the room, wishing the family good health and prosperity. Later we talked by the fire, sipping hot spiced cider while the children quietly played.
This year the house bustled with people I didn't knowfarmer neighbors and university students from former Yugoslavia. After helping in the kitchen, supervising the kids sliding down the banister of the grand staircase and catching snatches of conversations, I felt frazzled by the time dinner was served.
As we gathered around the "manger"the long mahogany dining-room table with straw scattered underneathquiet descended. Melanie lit a candle, symbolizing the coming of the light of the world. We sang a beautiful old hymn, first in Serbian, then in English, proclaiming the glory of Christ's Nativity. Listening to the young man next to me heartily singing, I no longer heard a thick-accented immigrant, but my brother in Christ.
Passing around a common cup, each person said to the next, "Peace from God. Christ is born." As we gently spoke those words, the Prince of Peace Himself seemed present with us.
Later, as I loaded the car and drove slowly home through freezing rain, I no longer dreaded the days ahead. The message echoed softly in my heart: "Peace from God. Christ is born."
Oh, Lord, how quickly I forget You! Please help me continue to rejoice in Your coming, to see You among us and find Your peace within me each day this year.