Until he died, my friend, Dr. Phil (not the television personality) recalled the first time we met. Years earlier, a few days before Christmas, our family had come to sing carols at his daughter’s door.
Phil and his wife Adeline had newly arrived in Canada. He told me he’d never forgotten the sound of our voices or how they made him feel. We knocked, his son-in-law opened the door, and we began singing. Silent Night. O Come, All Ye Faithful. Joy to the World…
I can still hear the echo of Phil’s lovely South African accent as he recollected that night. “It was a magical experience,” he said. “Suddenly there you were, a group of strangers on the porch. You didn’t come to rob us, but to sing to us!”
What’s more, we were singing the songs of his Christian faith. “It was….simply…wonderful!” He fumbled for adequate ways to describe that magical night. “Those were our songs, but we were in a new land and so much was different. You made us feel very special and very welcome.”
Years beyond that evening, my daughter, her husband and their six children continue the family tradition of carolling. Last December thirty-three doors opened to the sound of their music in the night. A hundred and eighteen faces peered out, perhaps expecting a canvasser or a sales person and hearing instead the bell-clear voices of children (and sometimes the unexpected sound of a violin or guitar), singing glorias. A hundred and eighteen people disturbed by Christmas and one family’s habit of sharing the joy of Jesus’ birth with others – for love’s sake alone.
Over a century ago, the English poet Christina Rossetti penned a poem that became a carol. Though well loved by classical choirs and musicians, it somehow evaded attachment to one or two easily recognizable tunes, and has instead ended up with several. You may recognize the words to Love Came Down at Christmas:
“Love all lovely, love divine; love was born at Christmas: star and angels gave the sign.
“Worship we the Godhead, love incarnate, love divine; worship we our Jesus, but wherewith the sacred sign?
“Love shall be our token; love be yours and love be mine, love to God and to all men, love for plea and gift and sign.”
Describe Christmas however you may, but love captures it best. It’s the present we all want most, the one so many feel unworthy to receive and inadequate to give. But the gift of love that Jesus brought to earth empowers his followers to go, give and live love.
During the second week of Advent – of waiting and anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’ birth – may you find that love knocking, and may it leave you singing.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” Jesus, …John 13:34”