Many years ago, when I was younger and a much less experienced gifting advisor to St. Nick, a rock tumbler appeared under our Christmas tree. The three little boys who received this terrific gift were beyond excited to sort through the bag of dingy, dusty rocks to find the perfect ones for a first try at the polishing machine. We set up the tumbler in our utility room, following all the directions, adding in the requisite grit and water to begin the long process of transformation.
It was then that I realized rock tumblers are very loud.
Not just loud, but also agonizingly monotonous. The boys were thrilled. I was near tears. They loved their gift so much and it was sheer misery for me. It was as if the sound actually signaled to them to raise their own base level of boy boisterousness to match the rock tumbler’s crunching, motorized clamor.
The rock tumbler lasted maybe a couple of hours in my utility room. Then, it had to move to our outside storage building. It was too much. Too loud. Too disruptive. Too disturbing. With my excited parade of little boys trailing behind me, I moved their Christmas gift to its place in the storage building and wondered if the final product would even be worth it.
A few weeks later, those same little boys cheered wildly when we finally completed the process to find the most vibrant, smooth, and shiny little rocks they ever saw. As I watched them clutch each gem in the palms of their tiny, admiring hands, I realized the beauty of the process as well as the result. It was worth it.
And, I learned a lot from that seemingly unfortunate gift choice.
Fast forward to Christmas 2020. A pandemic keeps us contained. We are raw and roughened by our very human experiences of grief, anxiety, and the exhaustion of endurance. We are close and bumping into each other in the chaos that is this gritty Advent and Christmas season. Just as the sound of rough rocks tumbling almost spoiled my Christmas so long ago, I find myself agitated these days by the people bumping around me and the circumstances of this unique but still bustling holiday.
I am disquieted, but I am being polished.
My edges are pointed and rough just like those rocks. The people in this rock tumbler with me are just the same. We are all raw hewn stones tumbling around in our homes and our changed world. The grit of quarantining, masking, not masking, arguing, and altered Christmas-ing chafes us and makes us uncomfortable.
And, yet, it is Christmas. It is our yearly reminder of our Savior entering into our humanity as a tiny baby among the grit of a broken world filled with broken people. He came into this world to make us shiny and new. In time, we will emerge from the tumbler. By God’s good grace and the practice of virtue in this rock tumbling holiday, we can come out shinier, brighter, and even more beautiful than imagined. The Incarnate God makes us so.