I looked out the window one morning to see Longmont transformed.
White covered the grass, the sidewalk, the driveway – enough to make a Hallmark card, not enough to make a blizzard. It was the sort of landscape that inspired winter thoughts, like “How long til Christmas?” and “Where did I put my snow shovel?”
I smiled. This was what I had been waiting for. This was what I had needed, ever since leaving work the night before, spotting some small specks in the air, and excitedly texting Heather the news: “First Flakes!”
Yes, I’m THAT guy.
I have always loved winter, a childhood preference that was later reinforced by too many years of doing summer Shakespeare in Kansas’s 95-degree heat and 95-percent humidity. And to me, winter has never felt complete without snow. It’s a birthday cake without candles, Star Wars without the Force, a Broncos game without a hint of orange.
Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s cold. I know it’s wet. I know it can test the limits of vertebrae as backs strain to clear sidewalks or free stuck cars. And I certainly know how Colorado’s first few snow storms turn most drivers into either a tortoise or a Tasmanian devil.
But the child in my heart can’t help cheering.
This is snowflakes flying into the windshield as my sisters and I imagined the car making the jump to light speed.
This is the memory of Dad’s Subaru grinding the few short blocks to pick Grandma up for a Christmas Eve visit.
This is seeing every familiar detail covered and obscured – including my bicycle, left on the back porch overnight and now invisible except for the tip of one handle.
And in a way, this is what it means to wait for Christmas.
My Episcopal and Catholic friends like to remind me that this isn’t Christmas yet. This is Advent, the time of waiting, the time of expectation, the time of odd little calendars that hide a daily chocolate. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
For churches, it’s typically a four-week march to the 25th, with each week emphasizing a different trait: hope, love, peace, joy. Warm qualities for a cold time. And like the old Sesame Street song, one of these things is not like the other.
Hope requires work to be more than optimism. Love requires effort to be more than infatuation. Peace – not just the absence of conflict, but the restoration of how things should be – requires a constant reaching out, understanding, cooperation.
These are winter qualities, the candle against the darkness that grows brighter as more light the flame; the warmth that drives back cold as more huddle together. This is the winter.
But joy? Joy is the snow.
Joy is the one that can surprise you, ambush you, change everything you thought you knew. There’s never quite enough warning before the world suddenly looks different. It comes without invitation, jolting you out of the usual routine and into something new.
And if that isn’t a Front Range snap snowstorm, what is?
It’s not always comfortable, true. But it can make you see the world with new eyes. And if that child inside is still awake, it can be an awful lot of fun.
So bring it on, white Christmas and all.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make sure I’m ready to scrape a few inches of joy off my front walk.