In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Thanks to Susie Gentry for this picture
Since before I can remember …..
…..I have gone to church on Christmas Eve;
….. I have been held in love more than words can say;
…..I have been surrounded by singing and bells ~ Christmas carols for everyone!
…..there have been candles lit showing the faces of those I love;
…..this once-a-year night holds my heart and holds my faith.
This is the night we gather, this is the night we come together to hear the story we’ve heard our whole lives. There are many ways the story is told. And the truth is there are new tellings of the story each year.
Some of my favorite Christmas Eve’s have been
· When Claud, Bets and I sang at the 11:00 service in Mattoon and Mrs. VanVoorhis played the organ;
· Sam playing baby Jesus in 2001 (his birthday is mid-November, so he looked like baby Jesus to me);
· When John Brogan was 3 or 4 and although dressed like a shepherd, he acted like the church greeter ~ walking around saying hello and giggling with anyone who would look his way;
· The year 12-year-old Mary Rosa was the Virgin Mary and in the middle of the service reached under her red corduroy skirt and pulled out the stuffed baby (Jesus);
· That first year after Mom and Dad were both gone and I finally understood my grandmother’s tears.
Whether we hear the crunching on the snow under our feet, or the lapping of the waves on the coastline;
whether we bundle up in five layers or put on our “fancy shorts” and make our way to worship;
whether we stop for a moment to look for the brightest star, or get out our favorite umbrellas and imagine the stars in our mind’s eye ~ however it is we gather on this holy night ~ may we be surprised by joy.
Even here in Georgia, as I hear the melody of “Bleak Mid-Winter,” I know that when I hear it, I will cry. I’ve done that for about 100 years. But what is somewhat new to this old story of mine is that now Linda and I have two kind, tall young sons who will both be putting Kleenex in their pockets to hand to me during the service at just the right moment.
Alleluia. Can you hear the angels singing? They’re as close as your sister and brother on either side of you.
Breath Prayer: “Listening” “for your story”
God of Our Story, we give thanks for this holy night. Here we stop and stay at the manager, listening again for the angel’s song. Here we stop and look up at the stars and breathe deeply. Here on this night we worship you, as we hear again as if for the first time your story of faith, hope and love. Amen.
believes in beginnings and beginning again, in holding on and letting go, in God's presence as close as our next breath. Lesley works as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator in Atlanta. She is an ordained minister in the UCC and has just completed her second book, "Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon in 29 Days" (to be released early in 2015).