I'll be honest. It's been tough this holiday season. I didn't think I'd be where I am right now, and everywhere I turn, every day I have floods of memories of a particularly fulfilling season last year which just did not pan out like I thought it might. I have dreaded going home to Utah, greeted by people who love me and want the best for me and have so many questions for me. I just don't want to face it. Any of it.
But face it I will, because I'm that kind of gal. Don't get me wrong--I'm no Scrooge. I love the lights and music and celebration of Christmas and I've tried to partake freely and fully this year. Last night I had a bunch of friends over for dinner before the annual "Christmas in Alexandria" concert. I made four different soups (oh my! Mexican pork, Italian sausage, chicken tortilla, and tomato bisque! what delight!) and we talked and ate and listened to delightful music (you simply cannot go wrong with a bell choir, brass, and an organ, now, can you?!).
On Saturday sweet Wendy took me to a wonderfully rich Christmas concert at the National Cathedral. With Stacie and Dave, we imbibed of the Cathedral Choral Society and the Madrigal Singers of St. Albans and National Cathedral Schools. Their harmonies, along with the Advent candles, the stained glass window, and the sacred awe of a cathedral warmed my heart. I loved the music--some of it fifteenth-century, some of it twenty-first century, all of it proclaiming the glory of Christ and His birth and life. Latin, Old Church Slavonic, English, middle English--the tongues blended in harmony and light.
My favorite piece was "Before the world began," a contemporary work by John Bell, a leader of an ecumenical Christian community in a restored Benedictine abbey on a tiny Hebridean island off the west coast of Scotland. The last line of each stanza struck me with incredible force: "I am for you."
Before the world began one Word was there;
Grounded in God he was rooted in care;
By him all things were made,
In him was love displayed;
Through him God spoke, and said, "I am for you."
Life found in him its source, death found its end.
Light found in him its course, darkness its friend.
For neither death nor doubt
Nor darkness can put out
The glow of God, the shout, "I am for you."
The Word was in the world which from him came;
Unrecognized he was, unknown by name;
One with all humankind,
With the unloved aligned,
Convincing sight and mind, "I am for you."
All who received the Word by God were blessed;
Sisters and brothers they of the earth's fond guest.
So did the Word of Grace
Proclaim in time and space
And with a human face, "I am for you."
I love that. I am for you. He is for me. I find that in the arms and love of dear friends. I find it in a sweet email from the great missionary couple I met in Harlem four years ago. I felt it last night when I took leftover soup and some blankets to my dear African friend and read over his final before he submitted it. I see it when I read stories such as this about serving in Iraq. I believe in life and light and healing and love and hope. I believe in courage.
I am for you.