Dec 19, 2011

How to Make Christmas a Trivial Pursuit

We often we trivialize things in holy seasons—like God’s promise in Advent, as we rush to celebrate Christmas. Habitually, we miss the celebration of Christmas because we are too busy making plans for it. It is yet another case of “missing the forest for the trees.”

Here is a fine story about missing “the whole point.” Pianist Arthur Rubinstein once hosted a dinner party to honor Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff. During the course of the evening, Rachmaninoff said he thought the Grieg piano concerto the greatest ever written. When Rubinstein said he had just recorded it, Rachmaninoff insisted on hearing it then and there. During coffee, Rubinstein put on the proofs of the record and Rachmaninoff, closing his eyes, settled down to listen. He listened right through without saying a word. At the end of the concerto he opened his eyes and said, “Piano is out of tune.”

Or a more mundane story about the trivial involves a first person account of a summer that ended in Yellowstone National Park. I do not know who wrote the story, but it is instructive nonetheless.

Years ago, the unknown writer writes,

I spent a summer teaching in Mexico. Both my children went with me. To pass the time as we drove, my 13-year-old son Larry watched for license plates. The trip to Mexico netted him plates from 24 states, and while we were there he saw four more. So when we started back, he was over halfway to having “collected” all 50.

Our return trip was during the peak vacation season, and to top it off, we went through Yellowstone National Park—a license-plate collector’s paradise. By the morning of the second day there, he had just one more state to go: Delaware. Larry became obsessed with finding a license plate from Delaware. When we stopped to see Yellowstone’s magnificent sights, he didn’t glance at them. He preferred to run up and down the parking lots, looking at license plates. Talk about stress! Talk about anxiety! You would have thought that his whole life depended on finding a Delaware license plate! When we stopped to eat in a cafeteria near Yellowstone Falls, my son begged me to let him look for license plates. Please, I don’t want to eat,” Larry said. “Can’t I just stay here in the parking lot?” “No,” we told him, “you have to eat.”

So he went inside and ate as quickly as he could get the food down and then headed out to the parking lot. No sooner had we finished our meal, however, than Larry came bounding across the parking lot. “Come here!  You’ve got to see it! You won’t believe it if you don’t see it!” All of us went running out—and there, pulling out of a parking space, was a blue Volkswagen bus with Delaware license plates. We even got a picture, and today, a decade later, when we look at our pictures of Yellowstone, that’s the picture that tells what we did in Yellowstone that summer.
When you seek the spirit of Christmas don’t miss it by playing real life trivial pursuit!

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