The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who live in a land of deep darkness—on them the light has shined. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is Given. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” — Portions of Isaiah 9:2-7.
“Oh, come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant! Oh, come ye, oh, come ye to Bethlehem; Come and behold him, Born the king of angels: Oh, come, let us adore him, Oh, come, let us adore him, Oh, come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”
Light bursting through darkness, a baby’s cry and a mother’s tender love, angels singing; God coming to earth to dwell among us! Something incredible happens on Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve Candlelight worship has been a joyful celebration for our family through the years. When it was time for the candle lighting, people waited with anticipation for Pastor Larry to light his candle from the Christ Candle, and pass the live flame onto each individual candle that spread the light through the darkness. As we sang “Silent Night,” somehow, the live flame lifted our hearts to a new place of peace, hope and love and illuminated over darkness!
As a clergy family we lived far from home and extended family, which required us to establish our own holiday traditions: Each Christmas Eve Service, I served as Larry’s assistant and our kids as acolytes so we could sit together as a family; Larry’s Norwegian Rice Pudding; Driving around to look at Christmas displays of lights between services; Intertwining the unique traditions of each congregation he served with our own. Many of these traditions continued after retirement.
Then unexpectedly, two days before Christmas last year, Larry died. I was numb with shock on Christmas Eve! This year, the numbness has moved to reality and I feel disconnected from the joy of Christmas.
Traditions and events that added so much joy and meaning in the past have been replaced with painful reminders that Larry will not be here to share it with us. I am grateful that Christmas is at my daughter’s, and my grandson has taken over grandpa’s rice pudding. We will go to Christmas Eve candlelight service. But things will be different.
I am not alone. While many rejoice and sing, many suffer silently in pain. They are affected by loss of one kind or another: the pandemic, hunger, racism, homelessness, divorce, oppression, violence, hate, etc.
The pain of suffering cannot be fixed. The greatest gift you can give to someone in pain this season is to bring comfort and sensitivity to what grief is like during the holidays to those who mourn. God comforts those who mourn during times of celebration and reminds us that Jesus, who was born in a wooden cradle, and died on a wooden cross, gives us hope in the resurrection that nothing will separate us from the love of God.
May we find comfort that Christmas is a promise of transformation and hope. May the candlelight and singing of Christmas Eve lift our hearts into a new place of peace, hope and love and illuminate over darkness.
Let us bring the Light of Christ into the world!
• Laura Rorem is a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church. She writes to honor her husband, Pastor Larry Rorem’s legacy of love, compassion and understanding for all humankind, especially the most vulnerable. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.