I remember my first Christmas Eve Service as a Priest at St. John's Episcopal Church in Florence, South Carolina. I read the Gospel account of Luke's story of the Nativity flawlessly and then moved to the pulpit, filled with awe and wonder and started into asking the congregation to be still, quiet for a pause and to listen to the silence. It lasted for about 5 seconds when a car passing by hit their musical horn and "dah ta ta dah, dah ta ta dah" blared an air horn version of Silent Night as if on que! So much for the ascetics of silence, awe and wonder for that year! To top off the night, I read the Luke Nativity Account once again flawlessly at the Midnight Mass prior to the rector's sermon and sat down with a sense of pride and fulfillment. He leaned over and said, "You read that well, I'm preaching on the Gospel of John!" At which point, I looked back at him and said fearlessly, "Good Luck!"
I have returned to this theme of Silent Night, Holy Night; Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Humankind with a hope and expectation that some year I and the World will get it Right for Christmas Eve, but to no avail! Either I have been the one out of sorts or the world has had a varied pallet of conflicts, disasters, wars, economic downturns, rising unemployment, terrorist attacks and overall an attitude of "Not Playing Well with Others!" In many ways, most adults wouldn't stand a chance of being on Santa's "Good List" if we are truly honest about it! Yet a change in perspective has alleviated my longing for a perfect year and perfect entry into the Christmas Eve venue.
About 3-5 years ago, I came to see that there will never be a "Contracted Peace" on earth between People of such breadth and diversity that will appease the expectations, desires, and needs of a global human community. I could use up every Christmas Eve of my natural days here on this planet waiting and never seeing that come to a reality! I however can still do something about that challenge.
The Peace that I seek and desire in my lifetime will have to come from within me instead of from outside of me. If I calm my spirit, mind and body long enough to listen to what I am seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing, I can feel a peace shower over me. It is the Spiritual Inner Peace that comes from a resonance of my Spirit with a Holy Spirit that pervades a Hope and Grace that allows me to move among the people and venues of my world and manifest a calmness towards others in the manner of my chosen words, my deeds, my expressions and the overall way that I enter into the world and relationships of my life. I choose Peace, and Goodwill towards others that I see, meet, talk to, and interact with. I Choose to find a Silent Place to "Listen" to the Awe and Wonder of the Season as I watch children visit Santa, people scurry to buy presents, parking lots fill with gridlock, or as I sit still in the pew of an empty church or just outside staring at a star-filled sky! I Choose, and I don't have to wait for the world to provide of succumb to my willfulness or expectations. I could wait for ever if I do not choose to act and initiate the Peace and Silence that I seek this time of season.
It was hectic to do a two show gig at the local nursing home with a local choir and to accompany a fellow parish member on my guitar! But I wouldn't change a thing when I saw the elderly man in a wheelchair alone in a part of the assembled crowd, singing his heart out with each and every song or carol that was offered! His very image enabled me to sit in traffic that was backed up for miles as I left that venue on my way to gather yet another gift for someone I wanted to surprise! That in turn brought me to help a parish member pick out just the right guitar as a gift for their grandchild! A Grace-Chain Reaction of Events started from on choice of Grace and desire to share Goodwill with some seniors that gathered in their commons area for a little, "Christmas Cheer and Music!"
It was extra trips in the shopping venues around town to gather items for present lists these past weeks! Yet, I wouldn't have traded the hug I received from the older lady ringing the Salvation Army Bell as she wished me a safe trip home for Christmas! ( I passed by her multiple times and each pass equaled a bit of change for the Red Kettle)
It's going to be a 12 hour drive starting at 7 PM Christmas Evening after I give Santa his Christmas Communion for the 25th consecutive year, to get to my home and family in Georgetown, Texas at 7 AM Christmas Morning! But I wouldn't miss Mary's great cooking, a smile, a hug, a big kiss and the pandemonium that will lovingly ensue once Peter, Molly and Mary's twin brother, Peter dive into hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls and presents under the tree! Alex and Liz join us later near New Years Day.
I guess if each person was able to focus on their ability to sense and provide "Peace and Goodwill" in their own spirit and life, then perhaps shared Hope and Grace my overflow into the world at a rate able to overcome the critical mass needed to fill the world. It had to start somewhere! What a better place than in a small cave with a newlywed young couple experiencing the birth of a child sent from God to initiate by life example a Grace and Hope that offers the capacity for Humankind to Silence their activity, just long enough for them to receive a gift that can't be tied up with ribbons, bows or confined in a box, but that has every ability to calm a soul, and instill a Hope that can transform one's life!
Merry Christmas Everyone! May you experience a Silent Night -- A Holy Night -- and may you infuse Peace and Goodwill to All You Meet and Love this Christmas Season! May God Bless Us Everyone as we Endeavor to Do this to His Glory, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Our Lord God, Emmanuel!