This has been a strenuous time for me. I appreciate the support you’ve offered as I’ve gone about the business of honoring — and burying — three good friends. The earthly remains of Carl, Ed and Greg have been lovingly placed in the memorial garden behind the sanctuary.
As I prepare for our Christmas Eve services, I’m reminded of some of the things I love about this season. I prepared some thoughts which I shared at last Sunday’s special music service. I said, and I repeat: If Christmas didn’t exist… well, we’d have to invent it.
We need a holiday marked by the lighting of candles and the singing of songs of joy, hope and love. We need such a holiday at any time of year, but more especially at the darkest time, when the cold settles in for its winter stay.
If we were very wise, we’d invent a holiday in which, as Scrooge’s nephew put it, men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts and give freely to those who are traveling this brief road together.
If we were wise, we’d include the giving of gifts as an outward expression of the love we feel all year, not only for those in our own families, but for all those who share in our sympathy, concern and caring for those who suffer, for those who are in want and in need. We’d have the wisest, most powerful characters we could invent bring gifts to a little baby in a barn, kneeling down, for once, in a sincere display of the humility we all need in this life.
We could point to a star and say, “That’s the one that the wise ones followed,” so we would be reminded that we, too, need something to follow, that we, too, need direction and encouragement on our own long journey.
If we were to invent Christmas we’d probably paint pictures of angels flying to shepherds who are in the fields keeping watch, giving them a message of hope when hope seemed lost. We could have angels coming in the night to a woman carrying an unexpected, unplanned pregnancy; we know it would take angels to calm her nerves, to reassure her! These are the angels Lincoln meant when he referred to the ‘better angels of our nature.’
In the midst of winter we’d suggest bringing a live tree into our homes, decorate it, and put presents under it. Someone would have to create a Christmas card and suggest sending it to loved ones… to distant family and old friends. We’d have to invent something like a Santa Claus, and magical reindeer who pull a sleigh full of toys with a jolly old St. Nick at the reins.
What we could not invent, create or force onto anyone else, however, is the true spirit of this season — because that spirit is already there, waiting to come out… waiting to be realized; waiting to be expressed. Indeed, that’s why Christmas was invented and has evolved and is celebrated… to help us to feel something we might not otherwise feel… to understand something we might otherwise fail to understand… to touch that place so deep inside of ourselves that it sometimes feels lost, or missing… the soul — that which we call the heart, where love finds a home — even when there’s no room in the inn!
But we don’t have to invent it, or re-invent it. We simply have to open our hearts and minds to let it in, to sing it in, to hold it and to be reassured by the warmth it brings.