I was only half-way paying attention. (Some might tell you this is not uncommon!)
My computer was streaming Princeton Theological Seminary’s annual “Carols of Many Cultures
” pre-Christmas service. While listening to the music, I was sorting mail and glancing through magazines.
I was only half-way paying attention, but when I glanced up, I was moved nearly to tears. This year’s service, not surprisingly, was mostly virtual. Foreign graduates from around the world read scriptures in their native languages. Some choral numbers were taped from previous years. Others were performed by a virtual choir with careful video editing.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was one of the virtual numbers. Five socially-distanced ringers played handbells. Choir members sang their parts from their homes. In the otherwise-empty seminary chapel, a lone liturgical dancer performed.
The dancer, a young woman, wore a loose white tunic over black leotards. In her hands, long swaths of purple cloth swirled and swayed along with her expressive movements. I looked back to my magazine, only glancing up at the end of one verse, as the choir again echoed the promise, “Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” When the music paused, so did the dancer. As the loose tunic settled around her torso, I suddenly realized that this young woman, dancing to celebrate the anticipated birth, appeared to be about six-months-pregnant!
I was only half-way paying attention, and nearly missed a profound reminder of what Christmas is all about. Somewhere, in a dark night, when we least expect it, light appears. Somewhere, in a land of tears and trouble, hope is born. Somewhere, maybe right in front of our eyes, miracles happen. Some days, maybe in these days of struggle and turmoil, new hope is born. Sometimes, even the most ordinary things, like a pregnant woman dancing her delight, grant glimpses into the holy.
Somewhere, sometimes, maybe even now. If we only pay attention.
Note: The graphic at the head of this article links to the full carol service from Princeton Seminary. The moving performance of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" begins at 44:20 of the video.