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Take 5 This Holiday Season


I know, I know. Susanne here, and if you're like me, you're probably saying, "Five minutes? For myself? In December? Ha!"

I hear you. This is a wonderful time of year, but it's also exhausting. Cleaning, cookie trays, gifts, pageants, parties, special meals, cards. The list goes on.

Even when it doesn't "feel" like Christmas. Even when the holidays--or rather, their trappings--cause pain.

This past year has been one of loss for many around my family. Two of my friends lost their young adult sons in 2018, tragically, quickly, without warning or goodbyes. We've lost church friends to deaths both sudden and prolonged, and other dear ones have received cancer diagnoses. With other friends, some of our conversations have focused on making ends meet, painful sacrifices, and fears.

Yet Christmas comes, ready or not.

In all the busyness and grief, sometimes I forget what it is I'm supposed to be remembering this time of year. I'm not saying the trappings are bad. On the contrary, I love them. But Christmas reminds us we aren't alone. In Christmas, Jesus says, Weary World, I am with you. You will never walk alone. In your losses, struggles, joys, and fears, I am with you: Emmanuel

I've shared the below video before on Facebook and my website, but I'm sharing it again because when I watch it, a few things happen.

I stop. The soaring, beautiful harmony of this song brings tears to my eyes.

Then, no matter what the time of day or weather or my mood, this song transports me to Christmas Eve at church, when it's dark and cold and the kids are both tired and excited (and frankly, I am both tired and excited too). There's a quality present in church on Christmas Eve that isn't there during Sunday morning services, something I am not sure how to name, but perhaps you know what I mean. The night sounds different. It feels different.

Toward the end of the service at our church, the lights go out, except for the altar candles and one little light providing illumination for a flutist (often my daughter) who plays a verse of Silent Night before the congregation joins in to sing. Thereafter the flutist plays the descant. It's sweet, moving, aching in its beauty.

Yes, there's something different about Christmas Eve.

Beyond Christmas Eve, this song then takes me to the Manger itself. Morten Lauridsen (a genius, IMHO) composed this version of O Magnum Mysterium, a Responsorial Chant of old (I don't know how many hundreds of years), originally in Latin, here performed by the King's College Choir.  (Also, as an Anglican, I confess I love this stuff.)

The song is about the animals beholding God in the stable with them (Isa. 1:3) on Christmas and also refers to the words of Elizabeth when she welcomed Mary, Jesus' mother (Lk 1:42–43). Simple, perhaps. But also profound.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

When I watch this, I can feel the cold and quiet of Christmas Eve. But even more, I can see myself in the stable, in awe that God gave His Son for our sins and salvation, to walk with us, to comfort us, to be Emmanuel.

It is a five, no a seven minute journey. But it's one I need to take or I fall into jeopardy of forgetting what I'm celebrating this time of year. For a moment, I must ignore the dust, the cookie tray, the good things that cram my schedule like pageants and parties and cards.

God walks with me. God came for me, in my weariness. This song helps me remember that. Maybe it will help you, too, but if not, I pray you can take 5 to return to worship.

Comments

  1. lovely! I find it sad that Christmas has come to be the height of busyness and expectation. The "perfect" Christmas that is so often unattainable. The Christmas eve candlelight service is my favorite way to find that quiet joy again.

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  2. Thanks for this eloquent post that brings the celebration down to the real purpose of the season. We've been watching Kyle Idleman's The Christmas Experience at church and the stable scene makes so much sense when you can grasp why Jesus was born in such a minimalist fashion. It couldn't be more simple. Emmanuel indeed.

    ( I tried to get this comment in yesterday, but was on the road and cell phone apps weren't playing nice.)

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