Went to a grown up’s Christmas dinner party with my husband the other night. It wasn’t formal, but it was nice—an excuse to dress up in something a little prettier than the everyday mom blue-jeans and sweatshirt.
We attended the same event the year before, so we knew what to expect—more or less.
The hostess is an excellent cook. And, just as we anticipated, good smells smacked us in the face as soon as we walked in the door. The home was orderly and beautiful, but not at the expense of warmth and comfort. Fresh Christmas greens and candles dressed the tables. Wine, cider, and unidentifiable, but delicious hors d’oeuvres greeted us. A place marker with my name on it guided me to my seat. And there were chargers on the table. Do you know what a charger is? I didn’t.
I knew it wasn’t going to be a date—that my husband and I would be doing a lot more hobnobbing than hugging. We did manage to wink at each other across the barriers of our gender-segregated conversation circles, though…and scoot our chairs really close together at meal time. Even though we had to share each other, we were sharing with pleasant people, and the party was very nice—except for one thing…
I had been informed in advance that I should be prepared to share my favorite line from a Christmas carol…and explain its significance in less than a minute. This knowledge hung over me like a distant, but dark cloud the entire time. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a favorite. I had literally grabbed a song book, thumbed through till I found a carol I liked, and a line that was meaningful to me.
favorite thing that you did over summer vacation?”
I probably picked the same thing as a bunch of other people. By the time it gets around to my turn, I’m gonna have nothing to say.
Well, that wasn’t exactly true, but about five people in, someone did choose my song and my line.
Dang it. This is so stupid. Why are we doing this anyway?
I’m just never terribly comfortable being the center of attention – even if only for a moment. It’s not like I was really nervous or anything—just sort of braced. I’m told that the closer it got to my turn, the more I shifted in my seat (the hot seat).
And then, I began to explain my ‘favorite’ lines in O’ Holy Night.
A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices! For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
I know that thrill of hope. I didn’t meet Jesus until I was a young adult. I remember very well what it was like to have fear and uncertainty constantly at my heels, to be desperately grasping for identity and purpose. I know what it is like to be weary under the burden of my own unending defeats and failures—and to have Jesus lift the weight from my shoulders in an instant. When I hear these lines in O’ Holy Night, the memories come back, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude and wonder at the hope that broke into my life.
My personal experience gives me some idea of what the advent of Jesus means to an entire world that groans under the weight and corruption of sin. A bright morning dawning after a long and dreary night is a fitting picture for the birth of Jesus—the world’s first glimpse at the face of redemption.
As I talked (for less than a minute) about what those lines mean to me, my heart was again filled with awe at God’s simple, wild, and crazy-beautiful plan for salvation. If I take the time to really consider even one of the implications, the story simply can’t ever get old or mundane. In fact, it’s so incredible that even a brief, forced, and awkward sharing time can make me want to fall down on my knees and worship my maker and my savior.
Only God’s story is that good. And we get to be a part of it.