On the Saturday before the Christmas, Anna’s mother called me with the bad news. Seven-year-old Anna was in hospital. Her white blood count was dangerously low, and it didn’t look like Anna was going to make it home in time for Christmas. Anna’s mother asked me if I would help with the hospital visiting. Over the years, a group of us had become all too familiar with this particular routine. Anna didn’t like to be alone when she was in hospital and so friends of the family used to help out when needed. Because I lived only a few blocks from the children’s hospital and because Anna liked my bedtime stories, I often found myself taking the night shift with Anna. Bedtime at the hospital was quite the routine. Anna loved to be told the same bedtime stories over and over again. It sometimes took a couple of hours to get her to the point where she would even consider closing her eyes. And when she got to this point Anna always insisted that I sing to her. My abilities as a chanteuse are severely limited. I’m simply not a great singer. The DIVINE CREATOR of ALL that IS clearly didn’t see fit to grant me the ability to carry a tune. But this didn’t seem bother Anna. For some unknown reason – perhaps she was tone deaf, or maybe she just had a warped sense of humor—but Anna loved to hear me sing. And so, on the Saturday evening before Christmas, I found myself at Anna’s bedside. I had already told her several of her favorite bedtime stories when Anna asked if I would read her a story. She pointed to a brand-new picture book which lay on the cabinet beside her bed.
The book had no words, just pictures. The pictures told the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and the shepherds who were watching their flocks out in the fields. As I turned the pages Anna, and I took turns telling the various parts of the familiar story to one another. When we got to the part where the Angel Gabriel appeared before the shepherds, Anna took over. She knew her part well: “Do not be afraid, for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the CHRIST. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” Anna was well practiced in delivering these lines she had played the part of the Angel in several Christmas pageants. She delivered the lines perfectly. And then went on with her story: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying” Anna signalled to me to join her in the angels’ lines: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth peace among those whom God favours!”
As I spoke these all too familiar lines, a huge lump rose up in my throat. I wanted nothing more than to curse God right there and then. What kind of God allows a beautiful little angel to be stuck in hospital? What kind of God allows the dreams of a beautiful little girl to be destroyed by lousy timing? What kind of God, promises peace on Earth and then disappears for 2000 years leaving us to our own devices? I managed to keep my questions to myself as we continued to turn the pages.
When we got to the last scene of the book, Anna declared how wonderful it was that the baby Jesus and the shepherds and the wise guys and Mary and Joseph all got to hear the angels sing. I said that according to the story only the shepherds heard the angels’ song. But Anna told me not to be silly because surely the angels would have started singing again when they saw that everyone had finally arrived at the stable. I asked Anna what she thought the angels might have sung. She got a wicked little grin on her face and insisted that they probably sang her favorite bedtime song. I just laughed at the mere thought of angels singing that particular song to the baby Jesus. You see, over the years of tucking Anna in, I was forced to try to sing quite a few lullabies to her. And with my limited abilities, I can assure you that it wasn’t easy. Not for me and not, I’m sure for the nurses who may have overheard my feeble attempts. But of all my crappy renditions, Anna’s absolute favourite was “You are my sunshine. My only sunshine.” And so, staring down at the picture of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, the shepherds, wise guys and assorted angels, I began to sing Anna’s favourite lullaby for the baby Jesus. Now to spare the other people in the ward, I sang ever so softly. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know dear how much I love you please don’t take my Sunshine away.”
When I’d finished singing, Anna sang a lullaby for the baby Jesus. I’ve never heard Away in a Manger sung so sweetly. By the time Anna got to the last verse, a few others had joined in. That’s how it began. A couple of nurses and some of the other children and their parents joined us in an impromptu caroling session. We sang all the Christmas carols we could think of. When we couldn’t think of another carol, Anna asked me to sing her other favorite song. I couldn’t remember what her other favorite song was. Anna just smiled and said you know the one where I get to pretend to play the drum. I thought she meant The Little Drummer Boy and I said that I was sorry but, I don’t think I ever knew that that was one of her favorites. But I did know that it was a song beyond my ability to sing. But from the expression on Anna’s face, it was clear that I’d guessed the wrong song. Anna began to beat out a rhythm on the table by her bed. It took me awhile and I remembered. Kum by Ah My Lord …Anna’s favorite song. Come by here my Lord. Come by here. Someone’s crying lord come by here. Someone’s fighting Lord come by here. Someone’s hurting Lord, come by here. Someone’s praying Lord, come by here.
In a world gone mad, in a world where we have yet to learn just how to love one another, Christ comes to us. When we are hurting, when we are in pain, when our world is darkest, Christ comes to us. When we are sick and tired. Christ comes to us. When we have given up and can no longer bear to hope. Christ comes to us. CHRIST is our GOD which is the LOVE taking on flesh and dwelling among us. Christ laughs with us, cries with us, rejoices with us, suffers with us, heals with us, walks with us, shouts with us, struggles with us and loves with us. That beautiful parable of Jesus’ birth in the midst of deep darkness is the story of a child born to liberate people from fear. In that beautiful parable of Jesus’ birth is the Cosmic truth of LOVE’s power to burst forth even in the darkest of times.
For our GOD is the LOVE in which we live and move and have our being. Our GOD lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us. LOVE lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us. LOVE comes to us in each and every person who is working right now to keep us all safe and healthy, the doctors, nurses, orderlies, delivery drivers, retail workers, scientists, lab technicians, politicians, bureaucrats, paramedics, police, public health workers, vaccinated people, people wearing masks, people staying at home, people cancelling events, every single person who is doing their part to take care of their neighbours, is the way our GOD comes to us. As we feast during these Holy Days and when the feasting is done, I pray that LOVE will continue to work in us, through us, and beyond us to heal our weary world, for we are ONE with the LOVE which is DIVINITY and when one of us is suffering, we all suffer. So, let LOVE be born in us over and over again, as often as it takes for all the world to know that LOVE is the SOURCE of ALL, so we need not be afraid.
Have no fear for LOVE is born over and over again, in us, among us, through us, and beyond us. Therein lies the hopes and fears of all the years, met in LOVE tonight. Come by here O LOVE, come by here. Come by here and help us to bring the good news of great joy for all the people. Come by here and help us to sing Glory to God in the highest heaven and on Earth peace good will, and good health to all. Come by here O LOVE. Come by here. O LOVE come by here.
Do you hear what I hear? It is the sound of the SPIRIT of LOVE breathing in us. LOVE has come by here. LOVE has come by you. LOVE comes into the world day after day after day. Embrace LOVE, so that you can bring Good News of great joy. Joy to the world. For LOVE has come! You are ONE with the LOVE, which IS BEYOND, the BEYOND, and BEYOND that ALSO, our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE Itself! Merry Christmas! GOD has blessed us everyone! Amen.