Christmas Day, 2018
It all looks different in the morning. Last night was all about the Angels, wonder, and the mystery of the birth of God’s son in a stable, in the dark, and without medical help.
In the clear light of day, the angels have withdrawn a little, the swirl of Heaven’s focus has dissolved, and we are left blinking at a child, improbably real; and, in the way of newborns, totally mesmerizing.
So soft. So small. So perfect. The Lamb of God and the hope of the world:
God’s Son, right…there.
I found myself on our porch one afternoon last week, wrapping tiny lights around the top of the railing. The wire stuck and twisted repeatedly, and the whole experience was becoming annoying instead of pleasurable. The second half went more smoothly. At present our lights are shining in the darkness, adding something to the season and perhaps brightening our corner of Woodlawn Avenue.
Watching these small spots of colors is strangely compelling - there is no other light source on our corner – and our lights look like jewels shining against the absolute night.
Into this space drops the thought that it has been a long time since I believed I had a future.
I served as a Chaplain as part of the Recovery Effort at Ground Zero in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001. I have rarely felt the Presence of the Divine as strongly as I felt it there. Being there always felt sacred: the prayers of the world were centered on the site. It was holy, and I felt safe there. After the site closed, and I could begin to let myself feel, I discovered that part of the attacks’ impact on me was that any sense of the future had been taken away.
Everything became short term. The idea of making plans more than a month in advance was impossible, because I didn’t know if I would be there. I made my bed, did the dishes every morning, and kept my apartment neat, in case family or someone official might have to enter. It has taken me seventeen years to be able to look ahead and plan to do something five years down the road.
Looking at the sunlight streaming through the window behind the organ in Grace Church last week, I was taken with the word “hope” in a small little panel at its base. The word itself is about two inches long by one inch high – it’s not very big. And it’s the thumbnail at the top.
I write this post to say that hope, no matter how small, shines like the tiny lights on our porch in the absolute dark, in the midst of trauma and its aftermath. Christmas this year is about the presence of light and the presence of God shining in the darkness. This Christmas, Jesus’ birth is bringing light to the world and restoring hope for the future.
I wish you a Christmas of wonder, joy, and hope.
God bless you,
The Reverend Stephen Harding
is the Rector