My soul is quiet tonight.
Such moments are rare. This life is full of much that unquiets our souls—
Busy-ness, deadlines, responsibilities.
Diversions, entertainment, culture.
Loneliness, griefs, fears.
Doubts, cynicism, incorrect thinking.
But tonight, as I sit before my Christmas tree with its soft lights and ornaments that hold so many memories, and the flickering candles beside the nativities that hold an honored place on my bookshelves–my soul is quiet.
It’s not Christmas eve, yet. Almost, though. One more day. But I am already eagerly anticipating the stillness of that Silent Night.
Oh, it won’t start out silent. We will start the evening with one of two worship services. In between the two services, there will be snacks, and games, and the traditional “early” gift that each of my crew gets to open on Christmas Eve. There will be laughter; much laughter. There will be silliness, and driving around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, and sharing some of our favorite foods–cheese and crackers and cookies and sparkling cider and veggies and dips and chocolate covered pretzels.
Our house will be anything but silent.
But then 11:00 pm will come, and we will pile into cars and drive a very short distance to our church, where we will gather with friends who are really more like family, to share communion together and to sing Silent Night.
And then comes the moment I cherish and long for all year, every year.
Once my crew–all of them–are settled into their beds–usually around 1:00 am–I will sit before my tree, much like I am doing tonight.
But I won’t be at my computer. I won’t have my phone. I won’t have music, apart from the lingering strains in my soul from singing earlier alongside my crew
…..All is calm….All is bright….
And I’ll read the Christmas story in my marked up, falling apart, cried upon ESV Study Bible, and I will anticipate….
Yes, of course I will anticipate the coming morning. The joy of having all of my crew under my roof, to eat cheesy hash browns and cinnamon roll casserole, and to be able to give them each the gifts I have planned and given much thought to and saved for.
But, my anticipation is so, so much deeper than that. It’s a longing….
….a longing for the things of God.
….a longing for God.
….a longing for His coming.
Then, as Emmanuel, God with us. One of us, and yet not one of us. Jesus, the child born of Mary. God’s son, who paid the price for my sins, upon the cross.
And, His coming now–His presence, now. As Emmanuel. God with us. God who does not forsake. God who sees and knows. God who forgives. God, whose grace and mercy are the very life-breath that sustains us.
I long to sense His presence.
I think this longing is captured so perfectly, in this line from the song O Little Town of Bethlehem.
The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in Him tonight.
Oh, my soul. There are hopes I have–deep hopes. Hopes that are bound up in the very real-ness of who He is. Hopes that persist, even when rocked by doubts and questions and cynicism. Hopes that settle my soul in joy. Anticipatory joy.
But–o, my soul–there are also fears. Deep fears. Fears that wrap their tentacles around my mind and soul and that try to push out the hope. Fears that wake me, in the middle of the night. Fears that unsettle me. Fears that stretch through all the years. Through many years.
But Christmas—Christmas reminds me that both those tremendous hopes and tremendous fears are met, in Him.
He, alone, is the answer to both.
And, so. Tomorrow night–or really, in the wee hours of Christmas morning, as I sit before the tree and read the words from Luke 2, and I ponder the mystery of it all, and the wonder of it all, my anticipation–my longing–the very cry of my heart, will be these words–also from that same, beautiful old carol:
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.
Yes. Be near, Emmanuel.