with exceeding great joy

December 23rd, 2020

The other night I lay sleepless for hours after midnight and thought about how my sisters and I slept in the back of our station wagon on long trips, because even short trips were long to us then, squished together on a hard pallet of blankets and pillows—and I wondered how it is that these days I can toss and turn the night away in my own comfortable bed.

These are terrible times, more terrible than last year’s terrible, and terrible beyond the terrible twice removed, just a terrible terrible, even though there is less terrible on the way.

When I talk to people these days we usually mention the good that has been shown to us in this harrowing trip over rough country. For one thing, we now know how much we can do without.

And I’ve also noticed how this Christmas reminds me so much more of the original Christmas, or at least the original Christmas story, the one with no room at the inn. And although they don’t tell us how Mary and Joseph traveled in those days, she was great with child, and it couldn’t have been comfortable in a cart or on a donkey, even less on foot, which they likely were, over dusty plains and hills, for ninety miles. Ninety! And even when they got to their ancestral home, there was no rest to find, no place to stay, no one to take them in, and so like us they had to scrabble together under a rotting roof in their own humble way.

There were animals with them, animals being more hospitable than people and altogether a finer sort of company. Eventually some shepherds showed up, and they were raggedy too, living out in the open as they do, grubby but good-natured and kind.

It was night, it was dark, and there was solace in that, not fear. It was the dark that made the station wagon peaceful. It was the night that made the shepherd’s sky so bright. It is the deep shadow of uncertainty that has taught us to wait for the light. It is humility that makes us great, and terrible things that bring us to wisdom.

And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. — Matthew 2:10

Photo by Blair Fraser on Unsplash


  1. The dawning of the age of Aquarius. I don’t suppose Joe Biden will equal Jesus, but I too feel hopeful that maybe there will be more harmony and understanding. Let the light come.

    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — December 23, 2020 @ 11:18 am

  2. Much love and Joy to you Maezen. ❤

    Comment by Marcea — December 23, 2020 @ 11:21 am

  3. Dearest Maezen,

    One of your loveliest pieces ever. . . the perfect Christmas gift. Thank you so much . . . and may this time be a beautiful, peaceful one for you and your family.

    An aside having nothing to do with Christmas but with your wonderful book Hand Wash Cold . . . each time I rearrange the dishes my husband has put in the dishwasher I think of you. 🙂

    Comment by E. J. — December 23, 2020 @ 12:35 pm

  4. My mother would have loved reading this. Wait. In fact, she does.

    Comment by Kathryn — December 23, 2020 @ 12:53 pm

  5. Thank you and may you and all beings be happy, safe and free.✨

    Comment by Lana — December 23, 2020 @ 4:11 pm

  6. Some of my very best childhood memories were of sleeping peacefully in the back of our Ford station wagon. Back then the joy was in going somewhere and coming home again. Today’s joy is in understanding that we never, ever really leave at all.

    Comment by Bonnie Rae Nygren — December 23, 2020 @ 7:59 pm

  7. Another wonderful and comforting post. Thank you Karen.

    Comment by Tom Hitchins — December 24, 2020 @ 5:27 am

  8. So beautiful! Sending much love and peace to you ???

    Comment by Lucy — December 24, 2020 @ 6:11 am

  9. Your words, the Dharma, are such a treasure to us all. Thank you dear Maezen, I wish you a lovely holiday with your beautiful family!

    Comment by Kirsten Sopik — December 24, 2020 @ 6:18 am

  10. So lovely, Karen. So glad I opened to you this morning on a whim, just thinking of you and wondering how long it’s been. Too long is certain. And what a gift- thank you. Wishing you love, peace and health. xoxo Brenda

    Comment by Brenda Hansen — December 24, 2020 @ 6:24 am

  11. “ It is humility that makes us great, and terrible things that bring us to wisdom.”
    I once read an interview with Stephen Colbert, in it he told how he -for years- was very depressed about the loss of his father and two brothers in a plane crash and for years he was asking WHY did this happen. At one point it struck him, he had a family and was very very happy, he realised that that loss had helped him make the choices he had made that lead up to that moment in time and to that happiness. I found that very moving.
    I hope everyone reading this has a fulfilling and happy Christmas.

    Comment by Simone — December 24, 2020 @ 7:09 am

  12. Peace and joy to you.

    Comment by Ron — December 24, 2020 @ 8:42 pm

  13. A belated thank you for these beautiful words which were just what I needed today as I sit at last and catch up on things that have arrived in my in-box over the last few weeks. It does feel as if we’re traveling together through these terrible times. And here in the present darkness, I’m especially grateful for you.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — January 5, 2021 @ 12:43 pm

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