As the clock approached midnight on Christmas eve, we’d gird ourselves for the one-block walk to church on a cold Cleveland night.
Burrowed into our coats, we’d wrestle galoshes over our shoes and head into the wintry night. The air was cold and dead, the sky clouded and lifeless. The night air was frigidly silent.
There, at the end of the block, was our church, fully illuminated for a midnight service. Light streamed through the stained-glass windows, a colorful beacon in the darkness.
Drawing closer with each step, we’d hear the choir filling the night air with beautiful song. We’d start waking faster toward it.
Arriving at church, we’d pull open the old, wooden door and warmth would wash over us and provide a shiver of comfort and joy. The church was decorated with pine trees, and that wonderful smell – mixed with incense – greeted our cold noses.
In the midst of all the darkness and stillness and emptiness, Christmas had found me again.
The church was filled with immigrants who were missing people and places and parts of their former life in what they called the old country. On this night, they felt the ache of separation and the loss of what had been.
The familiar words and hymns brought them comfort and joy. Christmas found them, too.
I’m guessing we all can identify with those immigrants in some ways tonight.
Because of Covid-19, this Christmas eve is unlike any we’ve known. We’re separated from loved ones and missing parts of the life we once knew.
We can all identify
And yet, Christmas comes for us tonight just as it did for those immigrants huddled in the church. Just as it has for nearly 2,000 years no matter the circumstances – pestilence, war, depression.
Christmas meets us where we are and reminds us who we are. In beautiful and familiar words, it tells us again what’s real and true in our lives. It tells us of our worth and our life’s work.
Christmas reminds us of a love embodied not only in a baby but in each of us as well. An incarnate love that seeks to reconcile us and the world through each of us.
A love that gives us purpose and meaning. A love that will always have the last word.
Covid-19 won’t get the last word. Nor will our sad refusal to deal with it. Nor will hatred or fear or divisiveness or anything other than love. That’s the reassurance of Christmas: We are saved from and safe from all those things.
We’re saved from everything that isn’t love. Saved from even death itself, which cannot break any bond of love.
For God so loves the world.
So, let there be joy in the world!
Let us be warmed by that great light in our darkness. Let’s hear the joyful music in the air and breathe in deeply that sweet scent of Christmas all over again.
Tidings of comfort and joy. Let nothing you dismay! Love and joy come to you. Chains shall be broken, all oppression shall cease. Go tell it on the mountain.
Come one and all, joyful and triumphant.
Reminds us who we are
We’d sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” at the end of our Christmas eve service each year. Then, we’d bundle up and head back out into the cold for the walk home.
Only now, the cold had lost its bite. Those wonderful, sweet smells of Christmas lingered in our noses. And the beautiful music hung in the air and in our hearts, just as it has every year for centuries.
No matter where you are or what you’re feeling tonight, remember to listen for the music. It’s in the air, inviting us to sing along.
(Image courtesy of Adam Cohn https://www.flickr.com/photos/96142515@N00/37146385212)