By Charles Qualls
Christmas time draws near. As you read this, most of us are picking up the scraps that 2020 has left us and are preparing to somehow have Christmas. Oh, it won’t be like probably any Christmas we’ve had before. Where we used to discuss the weather when we had nothing better to talk about, now we lead with “Hasn’t 2020 been a weird year?!”
I do hope, though, in some small way that you will look back and see that the grace of God still managed to speak into your life in a special way this season. When life challenges, one of the tasks toward regaining health and balance is to acknowledge that our present moment likely won’t be our last moment. There will be something ahead of us, and we’ll one day discover what that adjustment has brought us.
Some can remember past times of hardship. Pandemics and health crises that have at some point past also spread on a global level. They can make the comparison between that and this to gain some perspective. Similarly, many can recall during war times and times of economic Recession or Depression when life was affected for so many. Christmas was, no doubt, different during those eras, too.
This year, families have had to make decisions few would have considered before. Is it safe to gather with loved ones? Is travel worth the inherent risks? Could your own loved ones inadvertently infect you and put you at risk? What would it feel like if you had to think you had given the virus to others? These are terrible things we’d just as soon not have to think about.
Many look back over these last months and are still shaken by real hardship. Perhaps directly because of the COVID-19 illness, perhaps by things that could happen in any other year, their lives have been affected. Accidents have happened, illnesses of other kinds have overwhelmed. Jobs have been lost and relationships have ended. Life can challenge us in so many ways.
But, many look back over these last months and are also heartened by what they know has happened. Forgiveness has been granted where it once seemed impossible. Love has been extended that has sustained the heart and encouraged the spirit. Goodness has been done and mercy has been given. Life can inspire and sustain us in so many ways.
We remember the Boston preacher, Phillips Brooks, because he wrote the classic Christmas song, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” He had a gift with words that capture life and inspire us. A lesser-known verse of his comes to mind just now from another song he wrote. “The earth has grown old with its burden of care. But at Christmas it always is young. The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair, and its soul full of music breaks the air when the song of angels is sung.”
My hope for all of us is simple just now. I pray that in these days, we can somehow strain our ears to hear the song of angels. For some, that hearing will happen while tears stain the pillow. For some, that will happen while the pace of your footsteps will be a little slower than you’d like. For some, that will happen while we are making the cruel adjustment to empty chairs at the table this year. However, others will chuckle the laugh of relief. The laugh of freedom. They will laugh at the joke or at the story, or even at the happenstance. They may even laugh because another year has passed and they are still standing. These light moments signal to them that a new chapter is just ahead.
But I pray you’ll hear the song of angels nonetheless. May it be so because each of us helps it to happen for another. May it be so because God wants us to have hope that a new day, a new era, a new season is somewhere out there just ahead. Merry Christmas.
THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.