Seven minivans roll through the streets of our town and I can’t help but think to myself that something bigger is happening in this moment. This is something more meaningful than my love of Christmas music. This is bigger than my affinity for seasonal nostalgia, as real as that may be. What I believe, deep in my heart, about this moment means more than my love of singing or even my own spiritual gifts and love languages. Yes, this is my favorite time of year. True, this is my preference for spreading Christmas greetings and Yuletide cheer. And yet, this is still something much bigger than myself. Deep within my soul, I feel it. I know that wherever Christmas carols are sung, there is a visible and audible vessel of God’s love and the hope of Jesus in a hurting world.
This is what I believe as we stand on a Thursday night in December, with six other families on the front lawn of someone else’s grandparents. Someone else’s grandmother or grandfather resides in each home we visit. They aren’t my own, and yet they are. My husband and I have learned in living far away from our own aging grandparents, a feeling of helplessness. I have known the desire to take a personal day and drive all afternoon, without stopping, to the homes of my own grandmothers. I have known the ache of binding responsibilities four hours from my own grandparents and I have learned to make every moment with them matter, but it will never seem enough to me. It is in this yearning, that God has taught me the sacred gift of loving someone else’s grandparent with the same presence that I long to love my own.
There are far too many days that I cannot leave my own job, children, and very real responsibilities to be with my grandparents. Yet, the calendar keeps moving forward and the clock keeps ticking. Time is a sacred gift and I feel so far away so very many days of the year. We cannot always be where we long to be, but we can be fully present where we are. In the past two years, God has opened my eyes and given me the gift of someone else’s grandma and grandpa. They are all around us, wherever we live on the globe, you know. There’s someone else’s grandpa next door and someone else’s grandma in the grocery store. Our church congregations are filled with the matriarchs and patriarchs or someone else’s family.
The entire fall, I long to take a day off of work to be in my Grandma’s kitchen or to put up her Christmas tree and it burdens my heart because I have already felt the ache of saying goodbye to a grandmother.
As my children join arms with other children on the front lawn of someone’s grandmother, I know that God is gifting me this. I cannot be with my own people nearly as often as I’d like, but I can love someone’s else’s people like they are my own. Whenever a Christmas carol is sung on the lawn of a person who has become less likely to get out of the house on her own, someone’s grandmother is filled with the message that she is not alone. My husband and I teach our children this, in our own minivan, between houses. Maybe we can love someone’s great grandma and maybe, just maybe, another follower of Jesus will show up for their own great grandmothers. We tell them about loving people who may be lonely. We teach them about how a person feels when friends show up to share their love and to sing these words,
O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”
Wherever Christmas carols are sung, someone has believed the lonely could feel less alone and friends have chosen to make the darkness feel a bit lighter. When carolers join together: the elementary school children who run a bit irreverently into each front yard, the middle schoolers who momentarily lose their soccer ball as it rolls out the door of their minivan, the high schooler who isn’t too cool for tonight’s offering of friendship and joy, the adults who grew up in this town in Sunday School classes taught by the people who reside in homes visited, and the other grownups who have made this town their adopted home to raise their own families? All of these people come together for something more than Christmas cheer. In their hearts, maybe they know that wherever Christmas carols are sung, someone’s grandmother feels honored and adored. Perhaps, they share my unspoken theology of Christmas hymns. Do they know that people standing together in this dark night may just break through the dark and carry His light into a world that feels so weary from burdensome news headlines and the fallen world? Do they, too, believe they hurried through dinner to get to this moment when the Hope of Jesus would be remembered in the hearts of both the visitors and the visited?
This is what I believe. I believe we are vessels, called to share the unshakeable, unchangeable, eternal, and unconditional love of the Messiah to the nations. I believe that there are days when my feet cannot travel to another nation or even to my own Grandparents’ farm, but in those days, I can travel across town because His Hope is for every hurting, lonely, or broken heart. Emmanuel, God is with us, feels so near when we sing at the home of the one we visit who has been told she is in her very last days. Her family is there. They help her to the front door with her walker. She is someone’s grandma and in this moment, it does not really matter that we are here. What really matters is the reminder we all share: He is here. Our God is with us. We are only a reminder. Wherever Christmas carols are sung, people hear His promises proclaimed.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature sing!”
Jesus, the Messiah, is the Promise of Hope. The promise that was foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament is the very real hope for the broken people singing those words on this December evening. We join together to declare the hope of Jesus. Wherever these words are sung, the only true hope is acknowledged. The Lord is come, and in this Advent season, we hold the promise in our hearts that He will come back again. We know this promise is true because every promise foretold, and we can count to 300 promises; every promise has been fulfilled. This Hope is true. He has always been true.
My friends, caroling beside me, have been hurt deeply in the past year. Still, our faithful Savior will redeem even this. One of the most faithful families I have ever known has suffered as they have been lied about and their names have been dragged through the mud with untrue accusations about their beliefs. For these friends, so much has been threatened and their reputations have been harmed beyond their control. Yet, their peace cannot be taken away. While some have chosen not to stand by my hurting friends when the waters became uneasy, my hurting friends are still standing because of their unshakable hope in the Savior that we now proclaim together. We can see how Jesus redeems all things. And suddenly, this comes to my mind in the front yard of someone else’s sweet grandma. We all hold this hope together, these friends who are carolers have stood together and we all stand together now. We sing this hope together. Jesus will renew these days. My friend, Holly, teaches her children, “The world is not about good guys and bad guys. There are those who know the truth and those who have been deceived.” The light shines brightest in darkness.
Wherever Christmas carols are sung, people believe His Hope is worthy to proclaim. Perhaps our theology is best observed when our lives are lived with secure hope in Jesus despite the darkness. The darkness has not overcome the light of Jesus. His truth sets people free and we know real joy.
Joy to the earth. The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ. While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy. Repeat! Repeat the sounding joy!”
In this world we will have trouble, but there are songs worth carrying into the darkness. And wherever Christmas carols are sung, His truth will be heard by listeners, His promises will be believed by many of the hearts behind the voices (no matter how imperfect the pitch or tone quality), and His Hope will be carried into a world that is a bit less lonely in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ who share a common faith in the God who is with us.
Wherever Christmas carols are sung, someone believes in the sharing of His Hope.
And the whole, wide world aches for His Hope.
May each of us look for the opportunities to carry light into darkness in the coming days. Even at Christmas, especially at Christmas, the world is full of lonely people, hurting people, and we are all truly the broken people who need to stand together and proclaim His Hope. May we seek every opportunity to be a light. May we be the ones who carry His Hope to the whole, wide world. May we be vessels of joy to this world.
Let every heart prepare Him room and Heaven and nature sing!
From my heart to yours,