Monday, December 23, 2013

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

For me, and I expect for many of you, that wonderful Christmas spirit that fills us so wonderfully has a lot to do with memories of Christmas past.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and my soul felt its worth.

 I suppose a lot of it has to do with nostalgia—a word whose very definition means remembering things as better than they really were.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

All through my early childhood and even up into my mid-thirties, Christmas Eve was always held at my Grandma’s house.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

And, while I am aware that my natural tendency is toward nostalgia, as I pondered what I would write in this blog for more than two days, try as I might, I could not think of a single negative thing that ever occurred while at Grandma’s for Christmas Eve.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.

I can still see the turquoise and white checkerboard tile of that kitchen floor where I am sure I most have been underfoot as Grandma (and many others) prepared the meal. I can still see the milk-glass and green bowl the rice pudding was always served in. I can see Grandma whipping those mashed potatoes with such furry her elbow was a blur.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

I can still hear the ancient AM mono radio on her kitchen counter next to the cookie jar playing the same Christmas songs from the same local radio station: Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, and yes, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
All within us praise His holy name.

I can still taste the goodies Grandma would bake for days before-hand: crispy, sugary rosettes and crumbly krumkake, Christmas cut-out cookies artfully frosted and decorated, (That silver ball at the top of the Christmas tree cookie was soooo hard.) coconut cookies with a puddle of pastel frosty in the center,  rich chocolaty fudge, hearty buttered lefse, and much, much more.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Oh, and yes, how I remember the smells— potatoes and gravy and corn and carrots and stuffing and rolls and sometimes turkey and sometimes ham but always, always lutefisk. To this day, I cannot find it in myself to enjoy the flavor of that lye-soaked fish, but it just doesn’t seem like quite the same Christmas without that smell in the air.

His power and glory ever more proclaim!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

And I can remember the atmosphere so well. Although the heat and steam from all that cooking often fogged the kitchen windows, the love in Grandma’s house hung thicker and more tangible than the smell of the lutefisk. We were all together and there would be no fighting or quarreling. It was Christmas, after all.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was Born; O night divine.

And when we sat around that table with the enormous bounty of such a feast before us, and we all bowed our heads in prayer, it was the same simple prayer Grandma and Grandpa and all their sons and daughters and children and grandchildren said before every meal, every day:

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.
Let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”

And as I think back on it writing this now, it was a prayer answered in the rich, glorious abundance of His grace and mercy long before it was ever asked.

May all of you and yours enjoy a most blessed and holy Christmas!

Today’s Praise
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
(Luke 2:14 NKJV)


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