From Mabel's Christmas Letter:
Now when I remember Christmas I think of the trees and lights and decorations and I recall all the busy shopping for presents. But most of all I remember my friends, most of whom have died or are as feeble as I. And I remember my family, my father and mother and sisters and brother, and my dear darling husband, Hank, and of course my children, grandchildren and great grand children spread out over this great country of ours. And I remember singing carols at the church. Oh how I used to love that Candlelight service. But mostly now I think of my Lord.
I don’t know what people do who celebrate Christmas without the Lord Jesus. They must feel terribly empty when they wake up the next day with presents unwrapped, the food eaten and life back to normal. No wonder the doctors say so many folk get depressed during the holidays. I think people have forgotten that Love came down at Christmas. God’s Love! God’s Son—our Savior! He did not grow up out of this ancient world of ours as if he was the best we had to offer. No, dear friends, He came down from heaven—God looked down and saw our need and so He sent His Son. That is why we call him, Immanuel, “God with us”. It is odd how you learn new things about that. Twelve years ago when my husband died it was my first Christmas in 54 years without my darling Hank. I was all alone in my living room and I said, “Lord, I don’t think I can go on. I’m so alone.” Then the room seemed to grow unusually quiet and the Lord seemed to say to me, “Mabel—you are not alone—always there will be two of us. Others may leave but I will stay.” That’s what Christmas means to me. God is with us—God is with me.
So go ahead. Decorate your trees and houses. I suppose it puts us all in a more cheerful mood. Give the children their gifts. Fill your stomachs with all the delicious foods. But listen to an old lady, if only for a moment. Sooner or later a person has to realize he is not going to live forever. No matter how hard we try to live upstanding lives there is a lot we do in this life for which we need to be forgiven. When we stand before God’s judgment everyone needs a Savior....
But instead, the Christmas sermon Episcopalians heard was this one:
The altar hanging at an English Advent service was made of midnight blue, with these words across its top: “We thank you that darkness reminds us of light.” Facing all who gathered there to give thanks were images of night creatures – a large moth, an owl, a badger, and a bat – cryptic and somewhat mysterious creatures that can only be encountered in the darkness.
As light ebbs from the days and the skies of fall, many in the Northern Hemisphere associate dark with the spooks and skeletons of secular Hallowe’en celebrations. That English church has reclaimed the connection between creator, creation, and the potential holiness of all that is. It is a fitting reorientation toward the coming of One who has altered those relationships toward new possibilities for healing and redemption.
Advent leads us into darkness and decreasing light. Our bodies slow imperceptibly with shorter days and longer nights, and the merriness and frantic activity around us are often merely signs of eager hunger for light and healing and wholeness.
The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few noticed at first. Yet the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger.
Jesus is among us like a flitting moth – will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper? He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking owl seeking food for hungry and defenseless nestlings. He will overturn this world’s unjust foundations like badgers undermining a crooked wall. Like the bat’s sonar, his call comes to each one uniquely – have we heard his urgent “come and follow”? ...
O, foolish Episcopalians! How you have squandered your treasures!