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Thoughts on a Christmas Eve Night

Photo by flickr user Luigi Mengato.

[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Hebrews 12:1-2. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]  

By Rev. Tim Lanham

I. Watching

I watch as the candlelight spreads across the sanctuary. The gentle light grows with a gathering momentum until the darkness gets pushed back and away. The sanctuary is aglow in the soft, sacred light. As I watch, I see all these faces—faces which, over the course of my tenure here, have grown dear and familiar. I see all these faces. But for one face in particular do I watch. I look for it as I do every Christmas Eve night. I watch.

II. Listening

I listen as the music reaches out along with the candlelight—moving gently but inexorably until it fills the sanctuary. While I listen to the music and the singing, I listen also for her voice. For without it, something is missing. The celebration of this mystery of the Word made flesh is not quite right without it. I listen for her voice to join and complete the song. I listen.

III. Hoping

Amid the candlelight and the music, I hope for the Day to come where history concludes and the Promise is made good. As I celebrate Christ's advent, I hope for Christ's return. For beneath the Season's kitsch and sentimentality, that hope is what this celebration is really all about. My hope on this night is for the Lord's Coming and Kingdom. I hope.


And she is a part of that hope. The unfulfilled promise I made half a lifetime ago to my wife's mother haunts me to this day. "Hey Maxine!" I exclaimed, "I'll see you later!" I still get mad at myself for not realizing that before I could see her later she would be dead. But on this night, that nagging regret is transformed by hope. In the candlelight, I glimpse that great cloud of witnesses. Among those gathered faces, I see her face. In the quiet, I hear her voice whisper: "Kid, I made it!" I have my Christmas gift. And there is grace.

Rev. Tim Lanham is a San Francisco Theological Seminary Trustee.


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