I Need a Little Christmas — Day 16

I’ve been sick since Friday, in more ways than one. After some hints Thursday night, I woke up to a bad head cold, the first I’ve had for a long time. There was no warning about the other thing that would make me ill, I learned about that from the media reporting from Newtown, Connecticut. New-town, such an innocuous name for horror.
This morning, Sunday, I woke up still sick in body, as well as in heart, despite my predictions that I would be “just fine.” Ok, I had a low grade fever, but I figured I could still make it to church. After all, it was Christmas Music Sunday in our church, I didn’t have to preach – a good thing as my voice would not have held up. All I had to do was sit and listen to music, and say some prayers. I thought about calling in sick, but I didn’t. 
When I got to church, folks could tell I wasn’t myself. “Why didn’t you stay home,” I was asked. I couldn’t really say, I didn’t know. Just going on autopilot I guess. I didn’t really think it was an overdeveloped sense of responsibility – though I have that. It wasn’t that I didn’t think others could handle it in my place – I knew they could. I knew I had the choice, and that it would probably be better if I stayed in bed. But I didn’t – and I wasn’t sure why.
Until part way through the service and the choir sang an arrangement of “In the Bleak Midwinter."

In the bleak midwinter,

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone.

Snow had fallen snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter long ago.

Our God, Heav’n cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain.

Heav’n and earth shall flee away,

When he comes to rein.

In the bleak midwinter,

A stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

.  .  .

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb.

If I were a wise man,

I would do my part.

Yet what can I give him

Give my heart, give, give my heart.

I thought about the midwinter winds blowing through our country since Friday. I thought about homes where children or parents wouldn't be coming home for Christmas. I thought about frozen earth and the chill of ice that no fire seems to warm. I thought about death -- in this time when we we should be celebrating new life -- how it seemed out of place in the Christmas season, in the safety of an elementary school, in the peace of small Newtown.

I came to church because I was sick – sick at heart. I was there because I needed to be there – because of Newtown.  I needed to be held close in the body of Christ. I needed to hear the promises of our faith – that death does not get the final word, that new life comes to us, even “in the bleak midwinters” of our lives. I needed to feel the presence of our God who understands our pain – who cries when we cry, who feels the chill in our souls – and to remember that we know this because our God was once incarnated in another small child. I needed to stand with his mother who would see her child cut down too soon, too soon. I needed to lift up my thanks in that Spirit-filled place for the life of my own child. I needed to light a candle in the darkness. 
            I was there because I needed "a little Christmas, right this very minute" (thanks Mame).  And if I couldn't sing "Joy to the World" with everyone else, I could look forward to the time when I would.
            I was in worship today because I needed to go to see the Christ child, and to offer Him my heart, and my heartache. Merry Christmas – a few days early. We need it now more than ever.