Yesterday was my daughter Ellie’s 21st birthday. Hard to believe she’s been in the world that long! In honor of the occasion I dug up a story that I wrote about her when she was four years old, when we went to visit her grandparents in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It goes like this:
It had been a rough night.
We were staying at my parents’ house near Asheville and the girls were having trouble sleeping in unfamiliar beds. It took a long time to get Ellie down and when I got to my room I found Catherine, my youngest daughter, snuggled up beside Christy with her head on my pillow. I tried for several hours to sleep on the six-inch strip of mattress she had left to me, but finally staggered back to Ellie’s room and crawled in beside her.
At 5:30 the next morning she called my name.
“I think I hear snow falling.”
And slowly i came to, and more slowly still I found myself glad again for children, for their innocence and imagination. Only a child would lie awake listening for a sound that can’t be heard—snowfall, or the hooves of reindeer on the roof. Think how much more sleep we would get, and how much more life we would miss, if it weren’t for them! I reached for Ellie’s hand, and together we lay in the darkness, straining our ears for the imperceptible sound of falling snow.
It was much later in the day that I thought how much Christmas is just like that. In all the noise of this season those of us who believe hold hands and strain to hear the sound of Incarnation. Above the roar of jingle bells, office Christmas parties, and the unwrapping of gifts we listen for the imperceptible hush of God breathing through human nostrils.
And some of us would swear that we hear it.