Christmas Eve always makes me feel a bit emotional. Quiet emerges from deep in my soul. My heart wants to draw near to the Source of Peace. During a season of hustle, I long for stillness and the feeling get stronger as I get older. It is more than sentimentality. It is a call to something primordial, something that existed before human minds fashioned religion, celebration, and tradition.
Certainly, this year was unlike anything in my memory. There are billions of people on this planet who feel the same way, no doubt. We’ve been still. We paused. We protected. Watched and waited. We held strong emotions – sadness, loss, anger, fear, even joy. We continue to wait.
One of my favorite “night before” songs is by the Dave Matthew’s Band titled, simply, “Christmas Song.” It chronicles Jesus’s life, revealing the intertwining of human struggle with the mysterious Divine. Toward the end, it imagines Jesus crying out,
Father up above
Why in all this anger do you fill me up with love, love, love?
Love, love, love
Love, love was all around
Usually the quiet of Christmas eve gets lost in the mountain of extra noise: schedules and purchases, glitter and song, “should’s,” “have to’s,” ideas about what we are “supposed to” believe, misdirected noise about ensuring the so-called reason for the season is maintained…
So often, this ceremonial quiet is packaged as pretending we are in the presence of the Christ Child and must maintain a level of silence in order for him to “sleep in heavenly peace.” Unfortunately, it directs our attention to a place of nearly laughable foolishness. The build up to the supposed importance of the celebration is watered down by the Happy Birthday Song.
If we are sincerely quiet, even for a moment, our souls will feel the pull of the deep mystery – that which exists beyond language, image, or form. It is the peace that passes all understanding. We have been preparing for this quiet all year – whether you are a front line worker who desperately needs relief, a parent who is struggling to stay above the water of life, a person concerned about what the future might bring, someone who experienced unthinkable loss, or if your life has not changed much at all this year and you hold various feelings about that. Life leads to a point where we must take rest.
It is also totally unrelated to the religious tradition you follow. Primordial peace existed before all of us and it is available to anyone who calls for it. Christians have an opportunity to settle into this peace at Christmas, and other traditions have specific times for this kind of prayer.
Why in all this anger do you fill me up with love, love, love? Through the lens of my tradition, I imagine the universe pausing at the moment of Christ’s birth – the galaxies stop expanding, planets cease their rotations, all of earth’s creations wait for the first breath and cry of the new baby who would teach us how to love. We wait in expectation, too. We widen our eyes and open our ears to know.
Love, love is all around.