"But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."
When we were growing up, my brother, Bill, and I never knew fancy Christmas stockings existed. We would always hang a pair of my knee socks for Santa to fill. Of course, as I grew, and my socks grew with me, it was a boon for both of us!
I can still picture those navy, nondescript knee socks dangling, limp and lifeless, from our mantelpiece. The ones I either saw or wore on a daily basis. Nothing special here. Just ordinary socks . . .
Until Christmas morning!
Bill and I tiptoe down the stairs. It is still dark. The sleep that eludes us wraps our parents in blissful slumber.
"Is it too early to wake them?" Bill whispers anxiously.
"Let's check the clock in the kitchen," I whisper back.
"Don't you dare peek at the tree!"
"Me? Peek? No way! That would spoil the surprise."
Bill sits restlessly on the bottom stair as I creep into the kitchen. To read the clock on the stove, I have to flip the light on. I fumble for the switch on the wall.
I blink furiously as harsh light floods the room. It takes a moment to get my bearings. When I do, I realize that in walking toward the stove, I run the risk of seeing at least a silhouette of the Christmas tree and its spoils through the archway entrance to our dining room.
My hands become blinders as I approach the stove and peer at the hands on the dial.
"Five-thirty?" I groan. "They'll never want to get up this early!"
"Dad!" I whirl around to see Mom and Dad, somewhat disheveled from sleep, standing in the kitchen doorway. Bill is peeking around them, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
"You woke them up, didn't you?" I point accusingly at my brother.
"Actually, no," Mom says. "You two have the loudest whispers I know!"
"Sorry," I say, blushing.
"Well, let me brew some coffee here and then we'll see if Santa came."
Worried storm clouds gather on Bill's face. I know exactly what he's thinking.
"Of course, he came!" I declare happily. "He wouldn't forget us, right, Bill?"
Sunny skies return.
With steaming cups of coffee at last in our parents' hands, it's time to begin (insert drum roll) "The Ritual of the Stockings"!
In our house, we always open them first. The difficult part is fetching them from the mantelpiece without catching a glimpse of the tree and what lies beneath it.
With our backs to the tree, Bill and I sidle along in the gloom. There is just enough illumination from a street lamp to make out our stockings' shadowy shapes.
Closer . . . closer . . .
Full, heavy, bulging, the yarn of the socks stretched to absurd lengths.
Squealing and laughing, we hurry as fast as we dare in the dark. Straight to our parents' bedroom we go! There, plopped on the bed, in the warm and welcome glow of light, we unearth our Christmas treasures.
We take our time, savoring each toy, trinket, or goodie pulled from the stocking. As we do, my knee socks shrink and morph slowly back into their original shapes.
For a brief moment, they were magical vessels containing untold riches. Now, they are plain, old, navy, ordinary socks again.
What, for us, could be more ordinary than a sock? What, for Peter, could be any more ordinary than a fish?
Jesus challenges us to go beyond the ordinary, to see everything in this world with fresh perspective. With awareness. With appreciation.
He urges us to examine what is within, not just what is without.
He wants us to see the miracles all around us. All the time. In everything.
Behind the veil of "ordinary", great treasures await!
How can you look at ordinary objects and find the extraordinary?
Will you pray with me?
Grant us the vision, Father, to see beyond the ordinary. Let everything we see in creation remind us of the miracle behind each one. Help us to see others as extraordinary, remembering that we are all created in your image. Amen.
I am thankful for today's soft, gentle rain.
Psalms 101, 109:1-4 (5-19) 20-30 or 119:121-144
1 Maccabees 3:42-60