I was sitting in the back of the church sanctuary, a place that has become familiar. The longer I listened to the seasonal lyrics the greater the contrasts of two realities came into focus. The disconnect was real. It was strange to find myself in tears as the congregants were singing in wonderful harmony.
Silent night, Holy night…
The lyrics made associations with the celebratory nature of Christmas. At that moment the ‘merry’ part of Christmas was not within my reach. As the carol singing continued, I was wandering in a confused and disrupted mental landscape.
The neural loading during the first part of the worship service had been gradual and subtle. The ‘greeting’ part of the liturgy was two long minutes of chaos; handshakes all around and brief introductions. I had joined in the responsive reading that followed till I lost focus.
The meaning of the words got lost navigating my compromised neural network. My network lacked the necessary efficiency to comprehend the full message. My mind wandered a few lines into the reading.
All is calm, all is bright...
Each element of the liturgy gradually and subtly moved me away from a calm and focused worship. This, along with the pains which resurfaced with my recent struggles added to the nagging discomfort whether I sit, stand or walk. As my body pendulated between headache and fatigue a sense of calm eluded me.
Away in a manger no crib for…
The disrupted sleep added to both the fatigue and headaches. While in recovery mode any available energy is redirected to the essential areas. The brain is an opportunist that co-opts whatever energy happens to presents itself and claims it for the most essential job of mending the compromised neural network.
… no crying he makes…
These discomforts added to my emotional vulnerability, and left me out of tune with the spirit of the music. Tears filled my eyes much too easily.
As I lost focus I retreated into myself. I questioned the authenticity of the line from the lyrics that echoed in my brain. I choose to believe that like any other baby, that the Christ baby cried, probably even screamed. It’s definitely more reassuring to consider he cried. He would have cried for all the world to hear when he was hungry because his mother’s milk was slow to come in. He would have cried when the swaddling clothes were soiled and Mary hadn’t noticed it because the manure from the animals would have distracted her.
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the …
At one point I once again joined in the singing.
While I have always enjoyed singing, (though choir participation never was my forte,) lately music moves me more deeply. Singing and live music has a vibrancy that can’t be missed. It touches me deeper than almost any other art form, the words, the melody, the reverberations of tones and overtones. While my sensory loading reached it’s manageable limit there was a comfort that came with the emotions that emerged.
… to all he brings, risen with healing in his …
Deep down I know that Christmas is a message of hope. Hope for those who don’t find it anywhere else. The promise of healing reaches deeper than the merry greetings of Christmas. That’s what helped me close the gap between the lyrics and the space I found myself in.
Once in royal David’s city … he feels for all our sadness …
The lyrics affirmed me. It gave me a sense of hope, a reason to celebrate.
Praise the Lord, … and forget not all his benefits… and heals all my diseases … crowns me with love and compassion… Ps 103 in the Communion liturgy
My grandson held my hand as we joined the procession to the communion table. Observing Christ’s death as a preparation for marking the birth of Christ?
Communion actually brings the Christmas message into focus. After all, isn’t his birth the quiet but official marking of “Let His Suffering Begin.” His suffering with a definite purpose.
With a short but pronounced slurp my grandson cleared the last drops of grape juice from the individual communion shot glass.
This makes Easter joy a reality, makes it real. It reaffirmed that the birth of Christ was to accept his invitation of healing, of bringing wholeness and restoration to my life.
Joy to the world the Lord has come ... ... No more let sin and sorrow grow nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse if found ...
Even while I struggle I look forward to marking Christmas as a time of laughter, a celebration with family, friends and community. Not with the same spontaneity or exuberance but nevertheless with a sense of Joy that comes when celebrating with people who can be authentic with each other; sharing tears, sharing joy, sharing hopes for tomorrow.
Let me wish you dear reader – Joyeux Noel.