by Sr. Cecilia Cicone, novice
When I was eight years old, all I wanted for Christmas was a scooter. I enjoyed riding my bike around our neighborhood, but all of the other kids would ride on their scooters. They would make sharp turns and do jumps and tricks that were simply impossible on a bicycle. I made it known to my parents and to Santa at the mall that all that I really needed for that year to full of Christmas joy was a brand new scooter. Preferably a blue one, but that was less important.
Christmas morning rolled around and, sure enough, the first present that I opened was that scooter. I remember being flooded with excitement and waiting for the moment when I could bundle up and take it for a test ride in our cul-de-sac. When that moment finally came, I put on my helmet and opened our garage door. I was not prepared for what happened next.
As the door opened, I heard the whirring sound of motors running through our neighborhood. My heart sank when I realized what it was coming from. Almost every child in the neighborhood had received an electric scooter for Christmas. They were practically flying around our neighborhood as I tried in vain to keep up with my new scooter, propelled only by my little eight-year-old leg.
Just moments after I received the very thing that I had wanted most, suddenly it wasn’t enough. My parents attempted to use it as an opportunity to teach me about gratitude and remind me of the importance of physical exercise, but the disappointment that I felt on that Christmas morning still sticks with me all these years later.
When I recall this story, I realize that it contains a lesson I have had to learn over and over again throughout my life. That there are many times when I think if only I had that one thing, if only that one conversation would have gone better, or if only things had gone exactly as I had planned them, then I would be at peace. Then, I would be happy. Then, things would be as they should be.
You see, like most people, I like things to go according to my plan. There’s something about Christmas that seems to bring that attitude out. Maybe it’s all of the memories we have, or the picturesque Christmas movies we’ve seen, but we do our best to make Christmas “perfect” for ourselves and our loved ones. We spend precious time picking out the perfect gifts, we labor tirelessly over the cookies we bake, and we make plans to see Christmas lights and drink hot chocolate. Then everyone will be at peace. Then we will all be happy. Then things will be as they should be.
Then a family argument breaks out before we even open presents, we drop the container of cookies on the way to the car, and someone slips on the ice as we go to look at Christmas lights. And although deep in our hearts we know it’s not true, we can’t help but feel like this Christmas wasn’t as good as it could have been. We may even feel like it’s been ruined.
That’s because Christmas isn’t about things going according to plan. In fact, if things had gone “according to plan,” we may not have had Christmas at all! At Christmas, we celebrate precisely the fact that things did not go according to plan— at least, not according to our plan.
If things had gone according to our plan, maybe Adam and Eve would not have eaten the fruit in the garden so that we wouldn’t need a savior at all. For some of us, we would have hoped that Jesus would come as a powerful king so that we would know his power beyond any doubt. We might even wish that God wouldn’t have needed to come at all, that he would have stayed far off and just snapped his fingers to save us.
Thank God that things don’t go according to our plans!
Because things didn’t go according to our plan, God revealed his deep love for us in ways that we never could have imagined. This is especially true on the cross. Because things went according to his plan, we have learned that he is merciful, that absolutely nothing can separate us from his love. We know we don’t need to fear him because he came to us as a tiny infant. Things didn’t go as we might have expected, and so we can look into the manger and see just how close God desires to be to us in each moment. Every time something doesn’t go according to our plan, God reveals something to us about his plan of love.
When I was eight years old, I learned the important lesson that neither a scooter, nor any material thing, would be enough to satisfy me. In truth, only God is enough. It is my prayer, for you and for me, that this Christmas will not go according to our plans. Amidst the burnt cookies and the traffic jams, may we praise God that his plan is the one that always prevails.