I was a young pastor with a wife and two small children, full of myself as much as the gospel, and eager to do everything I could to fill time and space. Especially in a season like Advent, my schedule filled to overflowing. Preparations for services, extra services, hospital and home and nursing home visits, church meetings, decorating, gift-purchasing and wrapping, bible studies, prayer groups, youth and senior groups, caroling, community board meetings, police chaplaincy emergencies, preparing food baskets, volunteer hospital chaplaincy hours, volunteer fire and rescue department emergency calls—who could make this up and find such a schedule believable?
And so we came to the second Christmas Eve service, running from 11 PM to Midnight, with communion and candlelight. At the end of the service, the car being loaded, I would drive the family one hundred fifty miles, three hours, to my in-laws’ house for a gathering on Christmas Day. Exhausted. Every tiny bit of available energy spent. How could I drive? I had worn out my wife and kids with my busy-ness, too. No one should drive in that condition, as dangerous as being drunk. The one saving grace was that the highways were nearly empty.
About the time that I realized I was falling asleep at the wheel, another saving grace appeared. The northern sky filled with the aurora borealis. I stopped the car, stood outside in the brisk air, and witnessed another way to fill time and space. Magnificent colors and curtains danced in the heavens. My exhaustion turned to tears and joy. Glory in the Highest, quite apart from anything I had done or could do. I woke my wife and children, though I’m not sure that they could see and appreciate everything I saw and felt at that hour. Then we finished that trip in the refreshing company of the heavenly host.