I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”
Thanks to Beth Locker for this amazing picture
The Eve of Christmas was the holiest of nights for more than a decade of my life. It was the one night each year that I truly believed that if I listened with an open heart, I would hear the angels singing. It was for me the night when time stood perfectly still and when strangers somehow let go of suspiciousness and fearfulness, and leaned in a little bit toward one another. For 10 years or more, this service on the Eve of Christmas Eve was the closest I’ve come to living into a Silent Night.
It began 30+ years ago with a handful of folks in Cartersville, GA. Each year they gathered in an old carriage house. Bales of hay were brought in and placed around for sitting. Lanterns and candles were brought in for seeing. Folding chairs were brought and on really cold nights, somebody brought big heaters (even then we could still see one another’s breath, especially when we sang). The big doors at one end of the barn didn’t quite close, so there was always cold, cold, cold air rushing in.
We came from all over. Word of mouth brought us. We would gather, young ones and older ones. Wealthy and wanting ones. Light skinned and darker skinned ones. Most of us strangers to one another, but somehow when we entered into the space we would nod, and offer to share part of a blanket. Maybe because of the cold we sat closer to one another than we would at church. Maybe because of the darkness, the light of candles seemed that much brighter. Maybe because of the smell of hay and sound of the wind outside, the carols never sounded better. Maybe because we were never the same group two years in a row, our hearts recognized that we were standing/sitting on holy ground.
There was a fire in the carriage house several years ago and we no longer gather on the Eve of Christmas Eve. Or do we? I wonder.
Once a year, year after year we would come one by one and two by two to meet in a barn and sing carols by candlelight. We would enter as strangers and as we listened again for the Bethlehem story and the singing of the ageless melodies. Each year the love of the space seemed to break our hearts wide-open. The psalmist speaks of the steadfastness of God. On one night each year, many of us lived into that living, loving steadfastness of God. And if you listened closely, you could hear the angels singing. I believe many of us, if not all still gather. Maybe not shoulder-to-shoulder, but certainly heart-to-heart. Gloria, in excelsis Deo…
Breath Prayer: “listening” “for angels”
Faithful God, we are listening for angels. As we hear again the words of the Bethlehem story, as we sing from the inside-out Silent Night, we give thanks for your steadfast love, for us ~ each one. 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).