What is the best experience a person can have in life? 
by Pastor Bob Chell

That is the question a group of salesman were discussing one evening as they relaxed in a hotel bar after an afternoon of meetings. One suggested winning the lottery while another suggested an evening of ribald debauchery. Others chimed in with similar ideas until their boss told them they were all wrong and related his story of his car breaking down in a blizzard and  striving to get to a farmhouse whose light he could barely discern through the blowing snow only to find no house at all, only a light on a pole.

The scene is from an early chapter in the semi-autobiographical novel, Blood of the Lamb, by Peter DeVries. In it, as the boss droned on about his near death experience (obviously, his presence indicated he survived the storm) one of the salesman got the giggles and the narrator of the novel, noting the  bosses irritation, says, “We knew then that his days with the company were numbered.” Sure enough, two chapters later he was out of a job.

I’m not certain if my memory of this scene is correct, after all, I read the book nearly fifty years ago. I wouldn’t have remembered it at all if not for a chapter near the end of the book where the narrator’s daughter is discharged from the hospital—this is the semi-autobiographical part—the narrator’s daughter, like the author’s own daughter, suffered from leukemia. Picking up his young daughter they go to a nearby park where they spend the afternoon enjoying the day and each other.

The narrator then refers back to the earlier, alcohol fueled conversation saying, “We were all wrong that night, the best experience a person can have is a commonplace restored.”
That last sentence was seared into my memory all those many years ago, “…a commonplace restored.”  A day at the park with one’s daughter, a meal with an old friend, grasping the hand of one’s spouse, the family roaring with laughter at a shared memory. Yes, some of God’s greatest blessings are the commonplace things we often take for granted…until they are gone.
As you gather this Christmas around the tree, even if some whom you love are gathered around another far distant tree, remember that the best gifts are not under the tree, but around it.
And if there is an empty place this year, if one you love is missing, remember the greatest gift of all is the Christ child; God’s promise in the flesh that; you are a beloved child of God and one day you will gather once again with those you love, the commonplace restored.
Pastor Bob Chell
Advent 2023