As I shared a Christmas celebrations recently with friends, I was struck by the sense of casual familiarity that was created. It was as if the words individuals used were designed to include and support all equally. When combined with a sense of openness and welcome, even though I was new to many, I felt relaxed and at home. As the even went on, different parts of the program reinforced the idea that we were family, celebrating life and the holidays with the best of our traditions.
One moment that stood out was the final song of a set of Christmas carols. I do not recall the last time I sang Christmas carols at a dinner, much less a mix of traditional jingles, hymns and Christmas movie songs. As we came to the final song, one most often associated with England and Scotland, for whatever reason we ended the song at a convenient stopping point. As the sound of the keyboard faded, a single baritone voice carried on. The acapella voice was strong, forceful, almost overwhelming, and convicted. He knew we needed to finish this song in the traditional way.
With a bemused blessing by the man in charge, everyone hesitated and then quickly added their voices to the final stanza. Standing next to the man leading us, I was struck by the passion and resoluteness I could feel. It was a wonderful highlight to an evening that left me with a sense of hope and peace.
As I walked out into the evening, I thought of the contrast earlier in the week, adversaries that “jeer, using words to kill; they bully their way with words.” (Psalm 73.8) Each word is their case was an arrow meant to wound. The extremes stood out as opposite ends of a spectrum of choice. I never thought of Christmas quite this way. My best gift would follow the lead of a man willing to live out peace, hope, and possibility. I too can act and invite others to join, because action is what the moment calls for and needs.