O Holy Night
I have loved this song since I can remember. Its simple beauty sung during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve never fails to bring tears to my eyes. As the candles affect my eyes and the incense affects my sense of smell, this song brings Christmas “home” to me. I’ve heard no one sing it better than Martina McBride. While I prefer her a cappella version, this arrangement is wonderful.
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born!
O night divine! O night, O night divine!
As I listened to my desktop printer whir and click while spitting out our annual Christmas letter all was right in my world. A quick highlight or two for each bullet point/month of 2010, the letter written by my wife and edited (slightly) by me reinforced my sanguine belief that life is good. And it is. Don’t get me wrong. Plus I was wrapping up this list of top ten Christmas songs. I’ve very little to complain about.
But Christmas, despite how it is marketed and sold today, is not about how good life is. Life is still hard. Our trials do continue. There is still suffering. As I pointed out in my post about Song #2, the second verse of “What Child Is This?” gives us a fleeting glimpse of the life to come for the babe now wrapped in his mother’s warm arms. It cannot be easy for the new mom as she “ponders these things in her heart”; the prophecy that her own heart will be pierced by a sword just as her son’s will one day.
Life is hard, no matter the season. I’ve been reminded of this during the past twenty-four hours in numerous ways. While reading about friends who have had a leather coat, an iTouch, a cell phone, or money stolen. Of a wife and mother who will now have to plan the funerals of her husband and two teenage daughters and suddenly have to face Christmas alone due to a horrible accident on the interstate in western Nebraska. Of parents Chris and Paula burying their 6-month old son Wyatt, a victim of spinal muscular atrophy. Of Kyle, a Marine and cousin to my wife and children, home on leave for the first time in a year before he and his fellow Marines are deployed into the uncertainty of Afghanistan next month.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. This is what Longfellow meant when he wrote “And in despair I bowed my head.”
But lest we forget: a thrill of hope arrived on that first Christmas morn over 2,000 years ago. For while life is hard, it is still beautiful. I read how Chris and Paula “loved baby Wyatt to the end” and the extraordinary lengths they went to ensuring that the precious little time he’d have on earth was full. I have also read of people rallying friends to assist families in need. Of anonymous donors stuffing a Salvation Army kettle with a hundred or a thousand dollar bill. I’ve felt the chill that runs down my spine while listening to a planned “spontaneous” singing of the Hallelujah chorus in a mall’s shopping court. I’ve read what a friend of ours tearfully wrote after witnessing the following at a Famous Footwear last weekend:
A man walked up to a lady standing in the check out line and grabbed the shoes out of her hands and said “It’s your lucky day. Merry Christmas. I’m paying for your shoes today.” She was buying three pair of shoes with her kids. She started crying too. The cashier was crying. It was really one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen. She said, “I don’t know what to say.” And he said, “Just say you’ll do the same for someone else.”
As I reflected upon these matters my printer became silent. The last of my letters had been printed. And I no longer felt that all was right in my world.
Because all is not right. And so this is why you will find me on my knees more often than not this Christmas and beyond.
On my knees with prayers of thanksgiving. Of sorrows and sufferings. Of petitions.
And always…always with hope.