On December 7th, we embarked on a cross-country journey in our white Tacoma (affectionately known to the family as “ShadowFax”, the trusty steed of Gandalf the Gray—that’s me) to spend Christmas with our kids and my mom (Nana). Why drive 6550 miles in winter? Well, primarily to stay “COVID-safe” in this crazy time of Omicron. We avoided airports, restaurants, and non-family human encounters as much as possible.
For many legs of this journey, we felt like hobbits trying to fulfill a quest. We began within hours of the terrible tornadoes in Kentucky. From Denver, we headed north to drive around the steepest peaks of the Rockies on I-80 West—only to find it closed—and then turned around and drove over the steep Loveland and Vail Passes, our 8 hour day turning to 15. But we passed over and though to Salt Lake City.
We hiked, talked, and drank bottomless cups of coffee with our kids—until it was time to head west again to spend an extra week with my mom, picking her up in California and bringing her back to SLC for Christmas. But again, ShadowFax was pushed to her limits. Winds in western Utah blew over 18-wheelers. Ice and blowing snow in western Nevada caused others to jack-knife into the ditch. And a blizzard in the Donner Pass (famous for stranding early settlers in the 1840s) threatened to impede us. But, as they say in Uganda — we reached.
Christmas in Salt Lake City was magical. Fresh snow provided gorgeous backdrops for our dog walks and skiing outings. We spent three nights on the slopes of Alta above Salt Lake City—with enough food for a month (just in case). Homemade lasagne (homemade noodles and all), our traditional Norwegian White Dinner on Christmas Eve (all the food is white), then steaks, fresh sourdough cinnamon rolls, and French cassoulet. What a celebration!
But we were nearly stranded again as a foot of fresh powder fell on the night before our departure—so we shored up the hooves of ShadowFax with chains—and galloped out beautifully.
So, many times these last three weeks, I’ve felt fearful. Fear that we wouldn’t make it. That our precious time with our family would be cut short or lost. Fear on the top of the mountain that I might not ski to the base without injury. Fear that I might collide with another vehicle on icy roads. All legitimate fears.
In Scott Erikson’s Honest Advent, in the final chapter he posits this statement: Be Not Afraid could be a legitimate substitution for Merry Christmas. For Christmas is Immanuel—God with Us. Why should we fear?
As we enter 2022, there are so many threats looming—threats to our lives and health, threats to democracy, there threats to our goals and dreams, threats to our communities, churches and families, threats to our very planet. In Serge, every year, our Leadership Team does a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The strengths and weakness are internal; the opportunities and threats are external. The threats lead to fear, and the more we love that which seems threatened (i.e. connecting with kids!) . . . the harder is to overcome them with faith and courage.
Erickson ends with this: Today, let our fears be the starting place of divine connection…Let us not be afraid, for Love has drawn near.