Tuesday, December 4, 2012
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2012
Many of my earliest and fondest memories take shape around carols: learning "Away in a Manger" in the Beginner Department... singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" with the Primary Department in the Christmas pageant...practicing "Go Tell It on the Mountain" with the Youth Choir as a teenager.
Other lovely, moving, poignant memories of carols come to mind from across my adult years, often attached to places we were stationed as a military family. The week before Christmas in Naples, we waited for the Abruzzi shepherds to come down from the mountains and play their bagpipes. In a small stone chapel in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, I was inspired by the beloved French carol, "Il est ne, le divine Enfant." In Seoul on Christmas Eve, two of our Army neighbors played "Silent Night," Pat on her flute and Dennis on guitar.
For some reason, however, the most compelling memory is a fragment of a December night when I was maybe fourteen. Why it seems so important, I don't know. But that was the year our youth group sang carols for Mr. John Payne, standing on the porch of his house one cold North Georgia night. Maybe that was the year we drank hot chocolate in the church fellowship hall and drifted outside into a world of white, swirling snowflakes. Maybe that was the year we sang Adeste Fideles at our Latin teacher's house.
I think our visit to Mr. John was the last one of the evening. In the dark, we climbed the steep rock steps to his old frame house on the ridge behind our church. I remember looking out over our little mountain town while we waited for the old man to come to the door. When he finally opened it, we could see the single light bulb dangling from the ceiling. We stood outside caroling while he looked on, radiant, from the open door. What I remember most that Christmas was John Payne's joy.
Maybe that was the year I first began to understand loneliness. Maybe I thought about those who wait "in hope of heaven." Maybe I caught a glimmer of the manger of Bethlehem in an old man's smile. Maybe I sensed, though I couldn't have explained it, that the Good News was there among us on the porch that night.
Father of Light and Love, in this Advent season, may we open the doors of our hearts to the Word made flesh. May we be mindful of those who are lonely and those who wait. May we share the Good News with those who differ from us in whatever way. May we see and recognize Jesus in our midst. Amen.
- Ashley Williams