“O Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” (Psalm 98:1)
As I write, my joy in this holiday season is a bit subdued. From November until now, since I moved to Chicago, I have been unpacking boxes, furnishing an apartment and pretty much spending every waking movement that I am not learning about my job and West Africa trying to make myself at home. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree or done any substantial decorating for the holiday. I have not had the pleasure of unpacking family ornaments and placing them one by one on the tree; there is not enough time or inclination. To add to that, I miss my husband who is still in New Jersey. My life transition makes me think of all those who are away from loved ones this holiday season. I am reminded of those who serve in the military, those who work late nights, weekends and holidays. I’m reminded of those on a continent far away. I hear the words of David singing, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre with the lyre and the sound of melody.” I can’t seem to move my mouth to rejoice. Yet, it’s Christmas.
Here in the US there’s music everywhere. In the malls, grocery stores and office buildings, everywhere I go I hear the happy sounds of Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Noise Reindeer and Christmas Carols. People are dressed up in the colors of the season. Sparkling reds and greens, ornate Christmas sweaters and Santa hats make up the outfits du jour. But, I can’t get out of my mind the images of the twenty children and their teachers who were gunned down in Connecticut earlier this month. The images of those beautiful six and seven year olds remind me of all the babies I have had the privilege to baptize as a pastor, all the children that I introduced to the bible in third grade. I think of all the young people I have had the opportunity to watch grow as a parish pastor. I think of my grandson and my heart breaks, tears flow and I try unsuccessfully to move my mouth to rejoice. I know it is Christmas.
The violence in Connecticut brings to the forefront the violence we see on the streets of US cities every day. Since I have been in Chicago, numbers of people have been shot or stabbed or affected by violence in some fashion. I read the news reports of violence in Syria, Nigeria and the rebels who are capturing one town after another in the Central African Republic. What are they fighting for: justice, freedom a different way of life or power and money? No matter, it chills me to know that there is no peace on earth. I want what we sing about, hope and pray for at Christmas!
Yes, it’s Christmas and we know that the peace, the love, the joy we sing about is here in the faces of our children, in our loved ones and in the promise that a babe born in a manger brings. Yet, that peace, that love, that joy is not yet fully experienced, fully available fully present in our world.
Yes, it’s Christmas and we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, Emmanuel-God with us. Jesus comes into the world as a vulnerable child, showing us that God loves us enough to take on human flesh, to live as we do, to be vulnerable and to give up this fleshy life on a cross for our salvation.
May you too rejoice!Remembering this, knowing this my mouth moves and I can “sing a new song to the Lord." My joy may be a little subdued, my life may be in transition, the news may not be good, but it's Christmas....So I will, I can, I shall rejoice because, "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness [will not, cannot, shall not] did not overcome it."