2019: The flu sweeps through the children and youth of the congregation canceling the Christmas Eve children’s program. Three out of four in my family are sick with the flu.
2020: Pandemic Christmas watching services with the kids on the computer.
2021: The stomach flu hits our home and the kids and I are in bed by 7 pm just as the bells are chiming to welcome people to worship.
2022: Finally, the year I was more than ready to experience the magic and hope of Christmas Eve in person.
I was ready for it all — the fancy dresses, the candles, the lit tree, the choir, the carols, the proclamation of Jesus’ birth, the angels and the shepherds, the wonder of Mary, and the story told through the voices and delight of our children. Leading up to Christmas Eve, my daughter Charlotte practiced her line at home: Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth. Along with a chorus of angels she got to declare this good news, the good news of Christmas, God’s peace is with us now, and for all time.
The service traditionally ends with singing Silent Night, a darkened sanctuary, and candles illuminating the space; always my favorite part of worship. After the children’s program, Charlotte, Isaac and I walked up the stairs to a packed balcony. The usher handed them each a glow stick and as I held out my hand for a candle, he just shook his head and said they were out. I paused for a moment hoping he’d find one somewhere and tried not to cry. When we sang Silent Night I stood between my children waving their glow sticks while my hands were empty.
Yes, I was disappointed not to have my own candle, but in the moment I realized that I didn’t need my own candle to be bathed in God’s light. I was surrounded in light. I was being held by the light of others. The promise and glory of Christmas was right there for me, for all of us. It was as if God was saying: See, you can’t get away from my love and grace, it’s there for you, in your neighbors and in your community, it’s there when you can’t believe it yourself. You are being carried.
Feeling worn out at the start of a new year and still processing last year? God’s light is being held for you.
Reeling from a recent diagnosis or ongoing medical concerns? God’s light is being held for you.
Praying for healing in your body and mind? God’s light is being held for you.
Questioning your relationships, parenting, vocation? God’s light is being held for you.
Whatever you’re facing, whatever questions you hold, whatever doubts keep you awake — God’s light is being held for you.