Monday, December 03, 2007

Hear the Angels Sing

Last year we spent all holidays in Haiti. Coming from a cold snowy climate it felt nothing like Christmas to us. Christmas is not supposed to be all about Santa, Rudolph, or Frosty the Snowman, we know that of course. But, if you've celebrated Christmas in cold weather your whole life, it does not feel too Christmasish in the Caribbean.
To us: Cold = Christmas!
(And, yes we know that weather has nothing to do with the reason for the season either.)

The folks here in Southern Texas are busy putting up lights and trees. It is so strange to walk around in the 80 degree humid weather and see lighted trees in the windows. The people ringing the Salvation Army bells outside of Wal Mart are dripping sweat just from waving their wrists.

Troy and the kids called when it was snowing in MN on Saturday. Everyone was excited about it. Paige and I are anxious to see some snow when we get back to MN tomorrow. Seeing the snow will make it official for us; Christmas is just around the corner. ;)

Lydie B is starting to grow in visible spurts now. Her eating schedule is paying off. It seems like we've negotiated a little bit better deal, she is going three and four hours at night now - which is helping make me less psychotic.

Paige did awesome at church yesterday. Her Creole was a big hit. I thought that I did a bad job at the first service and a decent job at the second service. If there were eight services I might have time to polish up enough to present something cohesive and smart. This coming weekend we travel to the great state of Iowa, this time Troy and I will be together which will help ... we're better together. And what I mean by that is, he is better at speaking and I am better at watching him speak.

Last week, before Paige and I left for TX, we had a melt-down of sorts ... or maybe it was more of a blow-out than a melt-down. Whatever it was, we determined that Britt would like more time with us before she moves and we would like to figure out a way to do more than eat, sleep, snap at each other, and run run run. Once our trip to Iowa is complete we should have two weeks before heading back south where we can sort of lay-low and just be. Everyone agreed that this has been a time of shorter fuses and high stress. It was not as we imagined when we were looking forward to the furlough. A friend of ours calls it "the perfect storm" -- the conditions have been ripe for impatience to abound. A month apart, living in close quarters, managing multiple busy schedules, lack of privacy, concerns about leaving the mission/Haiti for so long, scabies, boils, staph infection, viral meningitis, two rounds of the stomach flu, house decisions/woes, money stresses, post-baby hormones, new baby duties, sleep deprivation, a kid leaving the nest ... you get the picture.

I wish we were strong enough to take it in stride with more class, more patience, more faith. We're being stretched a lot, and the Lord clearly thinks we have more growing to do. That point has not been lost on me.


By Rick Porter

Hear the Angels Sing ( Dickinson County News, December 12, 2006)

Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often.

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

I posted this piece written by my Uncle last year. I have been thinking about it and wanted to post it again. I recognize that our struggles are not unique -- many of you reading are facing your own "perfect storm." My prayer for us, for our Haitian friends and neighbors, and for you this December ... That you might rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.