Around the world there will be a great pause this week-end. For most of us—the fortunate—work will cease and Christmas Eve we will don our finery, collect our coats and settle down in a church pew somewhere. Down the row beside us almost all the family is here. Our children, grandchildren and some of their friends. Great pride swells. Where does that lump in the throat come from?
The room darkens. Ushers light the long tapers up and down the aisles. An evergreen tree with its tiny white lights and silver symbols almost touches the ceiling. We are surrounded by Christmas. The crowd begins to settle down.
From somewhere in the back we hear the mournful singing: “Come O Come Immanuel…” A family comes forward and lights not four, but five candles in the Advent wreath. And we stand on the edge of yet another Christmas.
We begin to do what we have always done. We sing the carols we know by heart. We bow our heads in silence as someone prays. A robed minister reads the old words: “The light shines in the darkness…”
We hope it is true. Across the aisle sits Helen who lost her only son in a plane crash while her husband slips away with Alzheimers. On the back row John fidgets. He lost his wife on a vacation this past summer. Divorced Mary sits close to her two children. Looking around there are rows and rows of grey-hairs. But also squirming children people in wheel-chairs and a handful of young couples—oblivious to it all.
We have come from around the corner and far away to sit in this semi-dark place. One and all come not just because it is tradition and Mama said we will come. We come not just to hear the music and see the festivity or endure the sermon. Whether we know it or not almost all of us come for something deeper.
Hoping after a long hard year and a world in disarray—that the promised light that shines in the darkness—will touch us and all those down our row and everyone. Hoping that beyond the bills and aches and dull-grey days that light will cover our darkness. We sing again: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Dear God make it so.
So much of our world convulses. There are millions hungry and as homeless as that couple that once trudged toward Bethlehem. And yet on this not-so-silent-night we hope that beyond our fears that the promised light will shine in our darkness and the darkness everywhere. Maybe, despite it all, maybe this is why we come.
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com