As a child, I would listen intently to AM radio on winter mornings, hoping for the announcement that school would be cancelled or delayed. If the snow was intense, I might be able to sleep in until the inevitable wake up call, telling me that it was time to shovel. But after shoveling would come sledding, and after sledding, hot chocolate – what a wonderful time to be home!
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know – Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”
Once upon a time, the sound of sleigh bells had children rushing to the window to catch a glimpse of one-horse open sleighs. Christmas and childhood are inextricably connected. When I was young, I was always the first one up, plugging in the tree. Mom was groggy without her coffee but still managed to serve pastry and eggnog.
We still watch for the first snow. The beauty and excitement of those first flakes makes it feel like Christmas. On Christmas Eve, 2003, we finished the church’s candlelight service at 11:59 and rang the church bells, and as parishioners began to walk to their cars, a light snow began to fall. Everybody agreed it was absolutely perfect ~ the ideal conditions in which to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Christmas we picture has snow in it.
According to the book of Job, God has “storehouses of snow; he spreads snow like a blanket and scatters frost like dust.” Each flake is made up of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 water molecules. No two are alike; the possibilities are infinite. Only 1% are symmetrical or balanced. The largest flakes fall when the temperature is around freezing. On January 10, 1915, Berliners saw 4-inch flakes fall; imagine catching one on the tongue! Each flake “resembled a round or oval dish, with its edge bent upward.” On January 18, 1887, 15-inch flakes were reported in Montana. NASA’s polar satellite recently photographed the largest snowball ever, a house-sized monster from outer space, which broke up over the Atlantic. Had God thrown a snowball at us?
Snow appears white due to the countless number of tiny reflective surfaces. Yet although snow reflects light, it absorbs sound. (Ice does not have the same property.) A snowy surface is silent and peaceful; snow has the ability to drown out noise – arguments, car horns, personal and national wars. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, when snow might drown out every family argument, every selfish word, every bullet and bomb. Snow falling like it did one Christmas Eve during the First World War, when enemy troops sang carols together. Snow that welcomes the Prince of Peace.
As snow falls, it cleans the air of pollutants: desert sand, volcanic ash, isotopes from nuclear tests and automobiles. “Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Snow is a symbol of purity. Isaiah spoke of the one who would save us from our sins. “Reverse the curse” ~ waiting for the first Christmas. God’s forgiveness cleanses us, rejuvenates us, takes away guilt, fear, and anxiety, mercy falling like snow over our mistakes, our ugliness and our sin. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, in which Christ lifts this heavy load, replaces it with a lighter burden, fills my heart with hope and joy, puts a spring in my step, a natural lift, purer and more lasting than any sugar high or caffeine buzz.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, memory combined with hope, the excitement of a child, peace, purity, mercy and love.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.”
Snow facts are from a little paperback book called, The Physics of Christmas.
The Reverend Richard Allen