Call it our own private little Christmas miracle, if you will. It happened.
After weeks and weeks of what I call a “white sky” over Bismarck every night—a function of city lights bouncing off a completely overcast sky—we had given up hope of seeing the expected nearly-full moon on Christmas Eve. They say the real full moon will happen tonight, the first full moon on Christmas in 38 years.
It’s been a dreary lead-up to Christmas. Yes, the snow has made the season bright. Our back yard looks like the winter wonderland of the songs. But there’s been no sunlight dancing off the snow-covered trees, and there’s been no starlight twinkling in the sky on these longest nights of the year. Just a white sky, completely clouded over, day and night.
Last night, as we departed for church at 9:30 (I love the fact that common sense has taken over in the 21st century, and Midnight Mass now starts at 10 p.m.) I looked up, hoping to see the moonrise, knowing that the moon on the night before the real full moon looks as full as the real one. No such luck. White sky. Oh, well, I thought, maybe tomorrow night.
Mass was long, as it always is on Christmas Eve. We walked out the back door of the church to our car at about 11:15. Much to our surprise, there was a big, nearly full moon, shining down on Spirit of Life Church. There, on the back step of the church, I let out with a loud “It came upon the midnight clear . . .”
The moon followed us home, across the Missouri River, up into the hills of Highland Acres. I got out of the car, grabbed my camera, and went out to the back patio. I tried to take a couple of photos, but I realized the clouds were moving in rapidly. The sky was turning white. The moon was disappearing. I stopped and just stared. Slowly, the clouds moved across the face of the moon, and the entire sky turned white again.
But there had been that moment. It wasn’t the Star of Bethlehem, but it WAS Christmas Eve, the night of Our Savior’s birth, and I had just heard THAT story a half hour earlier. That’s something.
I recalled the fellow in the parking lot at the church commenting knowingly that it won’t happen again for 17 years or so. I thought about that as I stood there on my patio. 17 years. I’m 68. Probably on borrowed time already. I’m not likely to see this again.
Except, maybe, tonight. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I think I’ll wait up for a while and see. Nothing like a full moon to stir the imagination. Or confirm a 2,000-year-old story I’ve always really wanted to believe.