In this secular world which has absorbed, hardened and brainwashed you, you gradually find yourself softening, thinking back to a different time in your life. Back to your youth when innocence still prevailed. When we could still believe without much interruption that God could speak to us.
Perhaps it comes from gazing at the bright colors of Christmas lights that has motivated this calmness that you feel within. Or maybe it’s noticing the lit cross standing erectly in the night sky. Maybe it’s the ringing of the bells coming from the Salvation Army volunteer standing in front of the market, braving the cold offering their services for those struggling to make ends meet. Either way, you are transfixed by the world around you. Things that you previously missed, you now see. Things that you took for granted, awareness has now grabbed you.
It is almost as if you have returned to the sanctuary of the church you attended as a kid with your family on Christmas Eve. You remember the glow of the candles, the monotone of the prayers or the members of the congregation who dressed up as the wise men. You can see the setting of the manager where the figurine of the Christ child lies. And there as you sat with your parents, brothers and sisters, you could feel the tranquility. You felt safe, but you also felt purpose, a calling, a whisper. This was the time that sitting in church was not a labor, or boring. It was special. Maybe you couldn’t fully understand at the time, but still it seemed so real.
Something inside you would stir when the congregation sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" or "Joy to the World." You would feel the tranquility wrap itself around you when the service would end with ‘Silent Night’. Whether you had realized it before, it was moments such as these that fortified that which we call faith. The excitement of Santa’s arrival would soon replace the sereneness you had felt, but it would never completely leave you.
When you are young, you cannot see the world ahead and what in life awaits you. You have no way of foreseeing the trials, the challenges or the tragedies. There is no crystal ball that shows you an absoluteness of any path you might take. There is no foreknowing the influences that will confront you, or that which will eventually lead you from the security and comfort you felt when you sat in the church of your youth.
But as this time of year returns, so, too, do the memories of your years of innocence. But in fact they remind you, not of those moments simply watching a celebration, but suddenly recognizing that all the world around you is a sanctuary. You set aside your anger, your impatience and your frustrations. There seems something of a clarity that opens your eyes a little wider, that gently reminds you of a responsibility that seemed misplaced during the course of the year. And without resistance, you welcome it.
It is like Ebenezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning following the night of remembrance and torment. You realize the world may not be such a bad place, depending on where you look and what you choose to see. That there are people deserving of your extended friendship who you had not previously acknowledged. You discover within a yearning to be that better person you once thought yourself to be.
Suddenly words such as love, comfort, joy and peace have real meaning. That all of this, as some describe as the “spirit of the season” is more than mere happenstance.
And then it may hit you, that just as you believed God spoke to you as a youngster during those church services long ago, he speaks to you now. A reminder that this faith is worth embracing, and not a superstition.
It is Christmas.
Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne.