I am fumbling in the console, looking for my Jim Reeves Christmas CD, when I notice the wall of rolling, gray clouds approaching from the east. The sun is sliding slowly beneath the horizon in the west, shooting shards of orange-red hues into the purple-blue sky, presenting a striking contrast to the dark gray wall, fading into black in its core, bearing down on us like a biblical judgment.
It is Christmas Eve, and I am on the road, heading south from Ft. Worth to a family gathering in central Texas.
My kids are sleeping, and my wife fades in and out, dozing in the beautiful half-light of the evening. I am alone to listen, to see, and to think. The sight of approaching judgment prompts me to envision the massive, rolling wall as one of Pharaoh’s charioteers watching the Red Sea prepare to swallow him. Even so, Gentlemen Jim’s music (Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible says . . . ) eases my apprehension. And the storm never came.
That night, we share a Christmas spread with my wife’s extended family and play a little game: Each of us draws a number for an anonymous gift. But the game doesn’t end there. After each gift is opened, the next person in line can either risk the luck of the draw or good-naturedly force a previous recipient to hand over a particularly desirable present, prompting a fresh exchange. My wife wisely...