Comfort and Joy
Such tidings! What a wonderful Christmas we are having here in Baraboo. Our Christmas Eve service at Trinity was one for the record books – because of the ice storm, of course, but also because of the turn-out despite the ice storm, and the loveliness of this incredible and historic building. Greenery hanging everywhere… candles at every corner… lights throughout at half beam… it was glorious. From the Willcocks arrangements of hymns to the Communion Hymn for Christmas, the music was marvelous, and the congregation responded beautifully. The choir chanted Psalm 96 to one of Joseph Kucharski’s tunes. Glory! We were particularly moved as a family because it was our first Christmas as Rector and Family, and people were so unbelievably generous with us and with our children. It was wonderful, indeed. And of course our daughter turned 5 on Christmas Day, which always adds a sweetness to Christmas – caused both by celebrating her birthday, but also by recounting the Christmas Eve service 5 years ago when my water broke at church as I was about to begin playing organ and piano, directing the choir, and singing several solos. What a rich memory. Comfort and joy!
Comfort and Loss
Christmastide equals memory, so I have heard it told. True, I think, though there is clearly much more to Christmas than what is in the past. Haven’t the proclaimers of such limited truths ever read Dickens? Nonetheless, I always experience a melancholy just on the other side of the Christmas joy – remembering years and beloveds gone by, I suppose, and experiencing the reality that you never can go home again. This year, though, Christmas for me has the deeper sadness of the death of a friend. Amy’s second pregnancy started off quite normal, but when tests revealed that her unborn son would be the bearer of a chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 18, we all knew that Micah’s birth would be one of great complexity. Amy went into labor on the night of the 26th, and Micah was born almost 6 weeks early, on the 27th. His heart beat for a moment, and then he was gone – from life with mom to life with Jesus. Not a bad deal for him, but a heartbreaking one for those of us who love him and who love Amy and her family. Amy and Doug are standing on the steadfast and sure person of Christ Jesus, and are receiving comfort that they will undoubtedly one day tap into to comfort another. But in the meantime, they grieve. We all do. Comfort and loss.
Comfort and Hope
In the meantime, November and December have been marked by the breast cancer diagnosis of one of my best and dearest friends from college, C. C and I were inseparable for a couple of years as I rounded out my [lengthy] undergrad career. She was a freshman when I was a super senior, and our hearts were knit together by a common love of musical theater, ABBA, and Very Bad Movies. She was Cinderella to my Wicked Stepmother in Into the Woods. Years, marriage, time and space made their way into our friendship and we had sort of lost track of one another as time had gone by. Every now and then when her name would pop up onto my yahoo chat screen, we’d say hello and giggle and that was that. This fall, though, we had managed to reconnect more significantly just before word came in that her biopsy was not filled with good news. C has cancer. C is starting chemo in January. C has been my hero for the last 2 months. Her real-life acceptance of this journey has been filled with hope on every level. She and her awesome husband don’t have kids. Yet. What this all means for the future of their family, they don’t know. But they continue to be filled with hope. C has a fantastic family – I mean, hardcore, the real deal, awesome people – and she’s surrounded by love. If anyone has the courage to face this head on, it’s C. I’d be grateful if you’d remember her in your prayers. Just reference her as The Rock Star. The Lord will know. Comfort and hope.
And I’m off to put a 1-year-old down for a nap.
Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.
Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh tidings of comfort and joy.