It's Christmas Eve and I am way
out of town and decided to walk
down to the local church which
advertised its 5 p.m. Christmas
Eve service on the banner outside.
It didn't matter to me what kind
of service it was or what kind
of denomination. It is Christmas:
something that all Christians
share together no matter how or
when they celebrate it.
I didn't know a soul and didn't
need to. I wasn't dressed up and
didn't want to be. And so I went,
and so I sat, and so I sang, and
so I pondered as I always do.
Some things never change.
I wondered, forgive me for my
boldness, how easily Jesus
rested in the hearts of those
around me. All I know is that
a warm reception for God is
really not all that common.
Having said that I hadn't
come to judge. I just wondered
because that is how I am.
Here is the picture for you:
Ancient Christmas hymns, familiar
and nostalgic, fill the air. Candle
glow reflects on faces young
and old. The uneasy ambience
of families together: some happily,
some dutifully. A little girl
with a red plaid dress staring at
the flame of a candle her parents
hold carefully for her. Her father
holds a young baby who did not
seem to fit the same color or
genetic scheme as the rest.
An old man in a wheelchair, singing
loudly, sitting near me, smelling
strongly of urine. The pastor
seemingly torn between the
desire to unabashedly believe and
the ugly pressured burden that comes
from who knows where, to be or at
least appear, spiritually not-to-sure.
He said that this was the night
that something divinely special happened
(although he added that it might be
hard to say exactly what that was.)
Indeed. I wildly disagree. What seemed
hard to say was how many discerned Jesus in
our midst tonight. Did others see
Him holding out His Hand to them?
But isn't this what Christmas
is all about? About a Light
shining in our darkness,
about hope in our despair,
about a Remedy for our
spiritual ignorance, dullness,
and inability to see? Isn't
Christmas about Jesus coming to
the very least of us, and who of
us in not the least, the blindest,
and the most in need?
He promised to be there if
only 2 or 3 really knew their
need of Him enough to gather
in His Name. I desperately
hoped that at least one other
person felt as needy as me.
If so, Jesus would be a shoe-in, no
I thought of my home church and what
the Christmas sermon might be like.
I thought of the robust sermon that
must be dancing like a sugarplum in
the heart of my other exiled pastor.
But here I was, thousand of miles
away from both, just me and Jesus.
Before the service a lady caught me
looking at her and came, straightway,
as the King James says, toward me.
Rarely does someone give you such
a look of recognition. Rarely does
someone remember your name on the first
go. As the service ended, people started
to gather up their things, I started
to leave my seat and heard, unexpectedly,
my name called out. I turned to find
the same lady looking intently at me.
She smiled. At that moment I knew that
God had noticed, had met with me,
alone in a strange church, in an
unfamiliar town. It was God, always
God, faithfully God, without fail,
God who had and would always meet
with me. It is hard to know what
people do with Jesus. It is sobering
to think of what Jesus will do with
us. And yet where meek souls will
receive Him still, the dear Christ
enters in. That is the message of
Tonight I shall sleep in peace
in the arms of My Saviour. I
trust that you will, too. If you
are alone this Christmas, you
needn't be...simply call upon
the Lord. He sees all who call
upon Him! Merry Christmas!
alone at Christmas