“Brokenhearted” and “downtrodden” are words that sum up how many people are feeling as Christmas Eve approaches. Broken hearts abound as loved ones taken by COVID-19, unjust shootings, accidents and illnesses have left empty chairs around many holiday tables this year. And there are hearts broken by vacant chairs because friends and family can’t gather together this year out of safety concerns for a virus still infecting the young and the old.
There will also be many downtrodden Christians making their way to the manger with heads hung low and steps that are faltering due to the tiredness that comes in trying to fight injustices. Let us not ignore the drooping shoulders of many who are burdened with trying to put food on the table. The world is in pain, and to not be able to even gather in person on Christmas Eve to light candles and sing “Silent Night” is just too much for some to handle. This year’s “Silent Night” will indeed be silent, but maybe not.
Just because we won’t be singing an old, familiar song in an old, familiar way — in a church sanctuary — doesn’t mean that there isn’t a song to sing. Could it be that our broken hearts are creating space for a new song this Christmas Eve? Could it be that “the old song of my spirit has wearied itself out,” as Howard Thurman discovered years ago?
Thurman added that “the words belong to old experiences. I know that the work of the old song, perfect in its place, is not for the new demand. I must learn the new song that is capable of meeting the new need. I must fashion new words born of all the new growth in my life, my mind and my spirit.”
Perhaps not being able to sing “Silent Night” — as we have always done in church — is not a bad thing at all. Yes, this tradition will be grieved. But can we look beyond the loss to see what new thing can be found? “We need the untried melody to meet the need of the untried morrow,” said Thurman. May this Christmas bring us the gift of an untried melody.
Gracious and loving God, as Christmas Eve approaches, I can’t help but feel some sadness this year. Nothing feels right. The holiday cheer is missing. The traditions I have looked forward to are just not happening. Help me to find a new song to sing: a song of praise to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Take time to mourn the losses in your life. Don’t push them aside. Let the tears fall. Then wipe your eyes and ask God for a new song to sing this Christmas, a new tradition to begin, a new friend to make and a new understanding of Emmanuel: God with us.