Christmas Eve 2021

          I admit that I am weary, this virus has created a bit of chaos for our holiday gatherings yet again. But we are reminded on Christmas Eve of how Jesus was born as a tiny baby, in the darkness of a stable.  God’s love comes down to us, is born in us on Christmas. Jesus brings light and life and hope to a weary world.

You all know this poetry, these lyrics:  “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining; It is the night of our 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, A weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…

There is another song with lyrics that go “Somewhere in your silent night, heaven hears the song your broken heart has cried. Hope is here, just lift your head, For love has come to find you, Somewhere in your silent night.”

And my dear wise spiritual director, Paula, tells a story about one of her experiences at General Seminary around Christmas time. She writes: “It is a cold winter’s evening on the seminary Close in New York City.  Three of us seminarians are gathered a few days after Christmas in a dormitory room to study for the General Ordination Exams.  We are giddy in our anxiety and anticipation.  As we settle into the evenings drill, the open heat duct of this cranky old 19th century building brings us the unwelcome and troublesome sounds of an unhappy family next door. We know that our neighbors are a young seminary couple and their only child.  Under the stress of exams and unpaid loans, we are not surprised to hear the parents’ voices raised against each other in fierce complaint.  And though we don’t know exactly what they are saying, the tones betray an argument of considerable magnitude.  Seminary life is an exaggeration of real life.  Real life has its own struggles.  So we are not shocked.  But we are troubled.  There is a little girl over there, through the wall.  No doubt she is absorbing the decibels as personal blows.  That’s the way children are.  Her silence is a plea through the vent.  Her silence is a prayer.  Please make this stop.

Something planted deep within me knows to answer her prayer.  Something from the top of a hill that is hard to pedal up in summer and daring to sled down in winter… something from a snowy hill sheltered by unencumbered stars… something breathing life into my imagination, then into my heart, and then into my voice.  We three seminarians huddle around the heat vent and we begin to sing.  “Go tell it on the Mountain, over the hills and everywhere.”  Soon the violence of the adult voices settles into silence – long, deep silence.  And our voices’ harmony finds a cadence that comes to a silence of its own”.  Thank you, Paula.

And that song…it’s entitled Somewhere in Your Silent Night and sung by Casting Crowns.  The beautiful lyrics, the poetry, continue:
From heaven’s height to manger low
There is no distance the Prince of Peace won’t go
From manger low to Calvary’s hill
When your pain runs deep
His love runs deeper still
He has always loved you, child
And He always will
Lift your head
Lift your heart
Emmanuel will meet you where you are
He knows your hurt
He knows your name
And you’re the very reason that He came
Somewhere in your silent night
Heaven hears the song your broken heart has cried
Hope is here, just lift your head
For love has come to find you
Somewhere in your silent night
Love will find you
Love will find you
Love will find you

Jesus Christ is born in our hearts over and over and over again. The good news of Jesus’ birth is part of the “old, old story”—or rather, old, old stories, and poems, and laws, and prophecies. In Bethlehem—as another old song goes—“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”   We thank God that God’s love has and will always find us.  Amen.