Last Thursday I sent a business letter to someone I work with in Canada. Hours passed and I didn't hear back from him despite his normally prompt responses. I commented to someone in a second email that I was surprised by the first guy's silence but that person didn't write back either! Okay, I was now perplexed.
A few hours later, I received an email from the first guy telling me that he was in British Columbia (and not Toronto) with his family and he gave me another contact for my URGENT request.
First of all, it wasn't an urgent request but after I read between the lines (and yes, it took a minute or two) I realized what he was really saying: It's two days before Christmas, don't you have anything better to do with your time than bug me for work information?
In retrospect I couldn't agree more but at that moment I got my annual Christmas shock. Had Christmas snuck up on me again? Who the hell knew it was Christmas anyway?
The answer to the last question is approximately two or three billion people in the world. However, the truth was that I wasn't one of them.
Yes, I was embarassed. I wrote a profuse apology letter acknowledging that while I live within an hour's drive of both Bethlehem and Nazareth, I just had not realized that it was almost Christmas -- and yes, I would talk to him in January. For the records, he didn't write back. However, I started to think about Christmas ... for about five seconds. Maybe 10. And then I went back to my day.
Friday I went to the club to exercise. Not something I like to do at the best of times, but every now and then I run out of good excuses so off I go. Christmas didn't surface again until I was standing in the shower, tangentially listening to the music being pumped into the shower area over the loudspeakers. And then, there it was again. A Christmas tune. Not a Christmas hymn, but a well-known Christmas song.
By this point I was starting to feel overwhelmed with Christmas. I was up to two Christmas incidents in two days! In fact, I was so inundated with Christmas that when I finished getting dressed and left the change room at the club, I went to the office and said: "What's with the Christmas music? This is a Jewish country!"
The receptionist in the office just looked at me like I had come in ranting about the Messiah being at the front door of the Country Club. It was one of those 'what-exactly-is-your-crazed-religious-problem' looks? She told me that whatever it was about the music that was bothering me, I should take up with the radio station that was playing it. And the truth was, she was totally oblivious to my Christmas music concern. Living one's entire life in a Jewish country makes one totally desensitized to such things. All she heard was "music".
I soon realized that this was only a problem for me -- the ex-Canadian who was highly sensitive to Christmas in Israel. For the receptionist, it was simply Friday, December 24th.
Saturday I sat in synagogue as I do every Sabbath. No Christmas moment there. But when the Sabbath ended and I turned on my computer, there it was, in the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz. Fortunately, it was all good. After years of war and the resulting destruction of the Bethlehem economy, the tourists are flocking back for Christmas and the city is happy. So happy, in fact, that the people quoted in the Jerusalem Post article, wished hopefully for on-going peace.
Now THAT would be a Christmas miracle in Israel worth experiencing.