Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
It is truly the most wonderful time of year. As I’ve mentioned before, I love this time of year. For me, it is a time of rebirth and renewal. A time of hope. Celebrating the birth of Christ reminds me that I, too, can be reborn. I can start again. Every year, I have another chance to be better than I was last year. More kind, more cheerful, more spiritual, more happy.
My nephew called me this morning to wish me a merry Christmas. My redneck nephew, as I like to think of him. He told me about watching the Texas Chainsaw Masacre last night, to try and shock me, I think. But, I shocked him by telling him all about the history of that film and what inspired it, all without missing a beat. I love my nephew and I’m deeply touched that he knows he can talk to me about anything without rattling me. And, I think it helps that I don’t judge him, either. I doubt he would have felt comfortable talking to anyone else in the family about his father’s drinking problem, so I count myself lucky to have earned that kind of trust from him. When he complained about having to go to church tonight, I did try to explain to him that he might come to enjoy Christmas Eve services again, one day. And, why that might be. Of course, he’s sixteen, so that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. When I thought about how I felt at sixteen, I smiled and moved on to other topics of conversation. At sixteen, he’s not interested in being reborn or renewed. Neither was I.
The older I get, though, the more important this time of year becomes. More important than family or tradition, I need that sense of hope. Hope that the world can be a better place. That I can contribute to making it such. Hope that the new year holds untold opportunity to grow and change. To improve my life and the lives of those around me. And, so, I do things differently than I have in years past. Tonight, I will be in a church on Christmas Eve for the first time in more than ten years. In fact, as I’ve mentioned, I’ll be reading scripture with four other people. My section is from Luke, Chapter Two, verses eight through fourteen:
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, wordwide: A savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”
Afterward, I’ll come home and have a helping of suet pudding, which my mother sent me this week. Traditionally, my paternal grandmother would make this every year, until she died. Something learned from a Scottish housekeeper they had when my father was a baby. In the morning, I’ll have what’s left of my mother’s infamous orange rolls. Another family tradition. And, I’ll call and talk to family up North. Of course, there will be presents to open, too, though, that’s really secondary to my holiday celebration. My roommate, Doc, is pretty alone this year, except for me, and I hope he’ll be pleasantly surprised by the few, small things I wrapped for him. It’s not much, but, I hope a gesture that will make him welcomed and loved and less alone.
And, then, I’ll pray that the feeling of renewal will stay with me all year long, making every day a chance to start fresh. A chance to reinvent myself in a better way. An opportunity to let more Light into my life and shut out more of the Darkness.
It’s been a good season and a good year, really, all things considered. I’m hopeful that the coming months will be as good. Thank you all for warm thoughts and wishes these past months. I hope you, too, feel renewed tonight. That hope is reborn for your life.
I’ve set this to post about the time I estimate I’ll be reading in church. I probably won’t check on the blog or e-mail until tomorrow, so, I’ll sign off saying:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
(If you want to hear me read this, you can, here. And, yes, I sang that bit in German. I’m not a singer, so don’t judge me too harshly, eh?)