Merry Christmas Eve, Reader! It’s actually been a bit busy here at work today, which is a marked change from last year. I like it, though; it’s fun to pretend to be Bob Cratchit for a while, especially since I have no Scrooge here in the office with me.
It doesn’t feel real that it’s Christmas Eve; it’s raining here in the Land of Pilgrims, raining rather than snowing. I am, as is increasingly the case for this holiday, not at all ready. My gifts aren’t done, I’m not completely sure about the readings I’m doing for the services at church tonight, I owe Watchful a pair of poems that are still crunched up in my head and won’t allow me to untangle them yet, my personal life is kind of a mess at the moment, I don’t know what to do for a friend whose sister just died yesterday. I’m not ready for Christmas.
But it never seems to listen; the remembrance of that Child’s birth comes ’round every year whether I will or no, and every year it quiets me as it whispers “just be here.” Chirstmas, for me, is not tomorow—sure, the gift-giving and the holiday meal and the family time is fine and good and festive, but Christmas for me is tonight. Christmas is awkwardly being part of someone else’s family for dinner because they welcome me; it is realizing that my reading and my singing don’t have to be perfect because God will use whatever I can give; it is the moment at the end of the service when we lift our candles to the heavens and sing together; it is walking out after the last service and standing in the chill after the heat of so many people and realizing it’s really Christmas because it’s after midnight.
It is holy.
That’s not to say that tomorrow isn’t, but it is to say that when we sing of a holy night, I’m thinking of this one. So I sit here at my computer and listen to this song over and over in so many different versions and then—oh, Reader, then I see the lyrics.
Moving past the “sin and error pining” bit for a second, although that’s a pretty weighty theological statement of its own, I get stuck on the fourth line: “‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
Perhaps it is just me that gets caught in the places of feeling less than, especially in this season that demands you have more Stuff/Family/Love/Peace/Joy/Hope/Money/Whatever, but I doubt it. I love this season, I do; Advent is my favorite part of the year, and Christmas is far and away my favorite holiday. But especially this year, I have been carrying a lot of, well, shit, to put it bluntly, and bending under the weight of it. It has resulted in a lot of not feeling like I’m worth much, which I know Magister and Watchful and Hopeful and even Interpreter himself, if he read this, would tell me is bollocks. But only you know yourself, and sometimes what you know makes you shudder.
Except it’s not only you who knows you. God knows you—knows me, knows everything that I am and will be and have been—and still He came to break chains and teach love and be, simply be in all the crazy difficulty that is living as a human. In Him I have worth, regardless of what I am so sure that I know.
We don’t much do kneeling in our modern age; we’re old, our joints ache, it’s embarrassing, what if the carpet messes up our trousers. But I have known, Reader, the moments where the space between Heaven and Earth is so thin that you simply can’t remain standing. You actually do fall to your knees (which hurts, I won’t lie) under the breath-taking “thrill of hope.” Some of the moments of holiness I’ve experienced have left me gasping for the thicker air on the level where I usually dwell, the very cords of my muscles thrumming to a song I could not hear with my ears even were they whole. It’s an exhausting thing, being in the presence of holiness. I don’t recommend doing it often—but I do recommend letting it happen at least once.
“He knows our need; to our weakness is no stranger,” the song continues. This is a baby we welcome tonight and tomorrow—babies know nothing, not even how to see. Their worlds are nothing but weakness; they don’t yet know that there is anything else. But this Baby? This Child? It is God in flesh, not trapped but intensified, vivifying His own creation by engaging it fully. Through having lived that life He not only knows our need, He knows it, understands it, has felt it. The concept of a physically connected God is kind of mind-blowing, really. So when we gather tonight and sing of and to this Child, we kneel—maybe not physically, but in our hearts, because this is a holy night. This is a holy event. This is a holy memory.
Merry Christmas, Reader. I’ll see you in the new year.
[Joseph] went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. (Luke 2:5-6a, NIV)