Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
CHRISTMAS EVE, 2021: One of the problems with nostalgia is its implicit suggestion that the past is more desirable than the future. Even though we all know, when we think carefully enough, that nostalgia is a combination of idealized memory and wishful thinking, colored by the way emotion and yearning (and sometimes politics) photo-shop our recollections.
Nostalgia gets a big boost on days like today, especially when we seem stuck in this COVID loop and yearn to return to the experiences that defined Christmas past.
I understand. Maybe more this year than ever because of Rebekah’s retirement.
For me, Christmas Eve memories comes in five big buckets.
- My childhood, growing up in the south of England (Folkestone Baptist Church).
- The in-between years of world travel, college, and graduate school.
- Launching our young family in Pensacola, Florida (Trinity Presbyterian Church).
- Our 17 years in Brandon, Florida (First Presbyterian Church of Brandon).
- 2013 through August 2021, here in Wake Forest (WFPC).
Christmas promise, however, comes in just one: Jesus.
There are so many beautiful, melt-your-heart memories, and a lot of these are collected in my Advent devotional, In My Heart I Carry a Star. But one in particular that is pushing to the surface this morning is from Brandon.
I’ll try to get to the heart of the story in three paragraphs:
In our Brandon church, after Rebekah and Tim serve communion, all the lights are turned off, leaving the Advent wreath as the only source of light. Then, after a slight pause, I begin to pick out the tune to Silent Night on my acoustic guitar. As I play, the ministers take candles and serve the light to the elders, who – in turn – pass it along to the congregation.
Meanwhile, the carol picks up in volume as more people receive enough light to read the words. For the last verse I drop out, before bringing the guitar back in just for the closing measure. The final chord kind of hangs in the stillness and the quiet for maybe 30-seconds or so, until Rebekah pronounces the benediction, bathed in candlelight. The lights come up, the organ jumps to life, and the congregation explodes in praise, singing the most enthusiastic “Joy to the World!”
Arriving home, late in the evening, our entire neighborhood is lined with luminaries; Rebekah and I then take the most blessed, overflowing with Christmas, hearts-full with love walk in the deep quietness and the joy.
I Choose 2021
But today is December 24, 2021. And so I think my most favorite Christmas Eve is this one. Because this is where we are (in a new situation we have not experienced before), this is where we live, and this is where we have the opportunity, the imperative, to meet the Christ child anew and to receive the gift.
What can I give him?(Christina Rossetti)
Poor as I am
If I were a shepherd
I would give a lamb
If I were a wise man
I would do my part
But what I can I give him
Give him my heart
Give him my heart.
Give him my heart. Merry Christmas! May this Christmas Eve, 2021, be a blessed experience of promise and joy!
– DEREK & REBEKAH