Every year at my elementary school during the fall, we had a spaghetti supper followed by a festival of games. The supper came before the games that were set up in the gymnasium and other classrooms. It was a fundraiser, which really didn’t mean much to us children. I just wanted to buy tickets to do the contests in order to win the trinkets. The colors, booths, and people created an electric, magical celebration.
The days after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be significant days, not just days that we tolerate by anticipating and prepping for New Year’s Eve and Day. For them to be favorable to us, we need to remember yesterday, not just simply press on with a little frayed downtime because we are not as busy. Christmas Day ended, but not our experience of the Eve and Day.
The Christmas trees continue standing with all of their beauty, the lights remain lighted, the candles of welcome sit in windows, decorations still adorn homes. The reminders remain to help us remember yesterday for a good purpose. They give us opportunity to re-member, to put us together heart, head, and history—re-member. Remembering yesterday can prepare us for the days to come.
When I was fourteen, I still had a tenderness about me inside. I had learned by then, of course, not to show it much, having been toughened up by the “it is what it is” school of daily life. Everyone, of course, goes through this school. Nevertheless, I also think most people still carry tenderness within them behind a wall of caution.
On the night of Christmas Eve that year, I asked my younger brother if he would be okay if I read the story of Jesus’ birth down at the barn after we fed the cows and the two baby goats. He was okay with that, so I grabbed a flashlight and a Bible, and we headed out.
Baby goats are precious creatures when they are little—playful and calm if they trust the hand that feeds them. I thought it would be a good thing to feed the cows and then sit in the goat stall on bales of hay and read the story that starts when Augustus Caesar demanded a census be taken of the entire Roman world, which would take Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem and finally to a manger. Our barn would be kind of like a big manger that night with a bunch of animals. I was nervous about reading the story from the book of Luke out loud on my own prompting. Even so, I needed to hear it, and my brother was young, and I thought he would enjoy it, too. He was the coolest little kid in the world to me.
A lot of the cows were already in the hall of the barn waiting by the hayracks, steaming from a cold rain as their wet hides had begun to dry under shelter of the barn. We filled the racks and watched them push and squeeze around each other to get their space at the hayracks. We then climbed out of the loft and went into the stall with the baby goats. They were as calm as starlight. We settled in on bales of hay, rubbed their heads, and they finally just settled down on the ground, like us sitting in there with them was the most natural thing in the world.
I read the story by flashlight; it didn’t take long. My discomfort left me, like it was the most natural thing in the world to read the story of Jesus’ birth in a barn with two baby goats, the four of us in attendance on Christmas Eve. After I finished, we turned out the lights in the barn and ran up to the house in the rain. I remember the time with fondness, and sadness, too. That time was a long time ago.
Many Christmas Days have come and gone. I remember yesterday, and many of the yesterdays before. It helps to take time to remember. It helps me to re-member—placing my head, my heart, and my history together. It prepares me to move into a New Year, not just hoping that it will be better than the year before. Remembering makes all of the years before something of value. Remembering yesterday and the yesterdays that preceded it can allow us to move into the New Year in one piece, with our own personal stories being lived as a part of the Greatest Story ever told.