Less and less is Christmas about holly, jolly—or even spectacular and beautiful—for me. I understand the shepherds, doing the unglamorous work of keeping watch, of tending, even to what is no longer lovely or exciting. During the regular evening Eucharist on Wednesday, we did a modified version of the “Blue Christmas Liturgy” that recognizes how complicated the holidays can become for many of us. As I prepared the liturgy, I ran across this piece by Ann Weems (Kneeling in Bethlehem) that spoke to my heart:
Into this silent night
As we make our weary way
We know not where,
Just when the night becomes its darkest
And we cannot see our path,
Is when the angels rush in,
Their hands full of stars.
On my watch, the visits have all been made for now. By their very nature, these were visits to the most vulnerable amongst us. Those with dementia. People struggling with life threatening illnesses. The very old. The widowed. Some who are not able to hide their heartbreak. Yesterday was a bit harder, with a funeral and at the end of it, the devastating news that the daughter of one of the people attending the funeral had died unexpectedly as we were entrusting C into our Lord’s arms. Then, an unplanned trip to the hospital, only to find out the person I had understood was in the hospital and very sick, was home and doing relatively well. I took the back roads home, with the night so very dark and bones aching in the chill.
There are family responsibilities to tend to now; later, some simple cooking for a simple meal with my husband and father tomorrow evening after services, a sermon to finish, and some more quiet. On my way home a while ago, I came by one of the farms with sheep. I try to carry my camera most days now and I was amused, watching ewes grazing and their little lambs literally frolicking about, on this day before Christmas Eve. It is good work, the work of keeping watch. My hope for all of us is that we too may see the angels rush in with hands full of stars in the nights ahead. When the unexpected call comes, may we be, as Daniel Ladinsky suggests, “the midwife of God. Each of us.”