’Twas the weekend before Christmas and I was on hospital call.
This weekend is known for “when you think you’ve seen and heard it all” and suddenly there’s another outlandish story. It’s the weekend notorious for the unexpected.
Or rather …
It’s the weekend of expectation. And as part of the call team I prepared myself for any surprise.
But it was not what I anticipated. No nightmarish awakening middle-of-the-night-jump-out-of-bed-race-to-the hospital. We worked hard but no 14-hours-straight-in-a-row-from-the middle-of-the-night-into-day. And I got to sleep all three nights. For the call weekend before Christmas it was pretty routine and, for lack of a better term—kinda
No surprises at all.
Wait. What did I just say? Mundane?
How can I speak so bland for what happened—or rather what did not happen—this weekend before Christmas? A weekend like this before Christmas never happens in my universe. How did I miss the miracle and dare to call it mundane?
How many miracles do we miss for mere expectation of other things?
Humming Christmas carols during the commute home I was lost in thought Sunday night as I pulled in the driveway. Nudging the car door open, I could not help but peer skyward. And I lost my breath. There it was.
Gazing spellbound as clouds danced, swirling around the moon, I was wonderstruck. I sat in awe for a moment, taking it all in. The majesty of God. And I wondered …
What does earth look like down here from up there at Christmas-time?
Up there, amid blankets of swirling clouds and heavenly lights, stars glimmer and shimmer. But what about down here?
Does heaven gasp as the world wraps itself in Christmas—a spinning ornament studded with lights, glitter, and tinsel—another majesty of sorts—glistening from the most tasteful decor to the gaudy, even overdone? Or simple Charley Brown’s, from rich to poor, overdoing everything from lights to food to drink to family to travel to lavish spending?
It’s a celebration like no other. Smiling, I lugged myself in the door, feeling light as a feather.
Many said I got lucky this weekend. But it was not luck. It was so much more, or rather … so much less. Since much did not happen, I received what is nearly absent during Christmas—REST. I needed rest. Rest for the next night.
One of the most thrilling nights of the year—Candlelight Christmas Eve.
This is where I sing. A church filled with people from over eighty countries and all ages. And not just any music.
An orchestra accompanied by a glorious, ancient instrument—a grand organ with pipes from floor to ceiling, horns jutting from the walls. The form casts a breathtaking shadow for all who enter.
Walls of glass echo some of the most magnificent sounds ever heard.
For some it’s all about the music—multi-cultural and multi-generational, classics and contemporary. It is joyous, reverent, energetic, fun.
In the choir loft I have the best seat in the house. I get to feel the bass rumble beneath my feet, hear the horns lift, savor orchestral strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion surrounding sound—see the sanctuary fill with hearts full … or empty … or weary … or broken.
Children’s faces fill with wonder. Babies fuss. Families filling rows. For some people, it’s the first time they’ve entered a church for years. For others, it’s the only time of the year they come. And for some, they have never been at all.
But for all the sounds, lights, and rumbles it is long, hard, exhausting work.
Multiple services, focus, breathing, posture, presentation. I recall months of long practices, memorizing every word, note, count, and dynamic, climbing up and down to the choir room buried deep below to loft above, and I think—rest.
Yes, I needed rest for this night of all nights. To give the very best of myself to everyone. And to take it all in—majesty.
So we are all here tonight.
And so is He.
For tonight holds our greatest surprise. It’s the celebration of the world, as the glimmering earth spins in space, dripping in lavish everything.
As I gazed skyward the other night I imagined this eve—bathed in mysterious, glorious candlelight—inhaling the wonder of it all. Is God upon His throne inhaling the wonder as His creation celebrates the greatest event in all of human history—Emmanuel—God with us?
That miraculous moment when the divine intersected humanity.
Skeptics and unbelievers try with all their might to squelch Him, to destroy Him, to snuff Him out. But try as they might, the world, believers and unbelievers celebrate the mystery.
He cannot be silenced.
Just gaze at the stars above and you will see—night after night. Christmas is always there for you and for me.
You just can’t miss it.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
Merry Christmas from my home to yours,
Photos of church by family and friends
All other photos by Alexandria Sage