“This gift of grace we receive through the simplicity and humanity of Christmas can remove from our hearts and minds the pessimism which has spread even more today due to the pandemic.”
The week before Christmas, my wife and I went to get my vaccine booster at the very efficient county government building. We walked through the front lobby, emptied our pockets for the metal detector, checked in with the polite helper, got the poke and then went into the waiting room for our recommended 15-minute "make sure there’s no issue" time with 50 of our closest, socially-distanced county residents. As I prepared to take out my phone and start to scroll, I heard a very strange noise. It was Christmas music. And not just any Christmas music, but blatant and consistently religious Christmas music. The county government center is new and purposefully sterile at every turn. There is not a hint of belief or holiday of any kind in this facility. Yet here in this giant waiting room, there was "O Holy Night," "What Child Is This?," and "Mary Did You Know?" I instantly looked around for the disgruntled patient ready to complain. No one seemed disturbed, and instead more than a few were mouthing the words or humming the tune. I found myself flabbergasted and annoyed at this blatant contradiction of principles. As we drove home, I continued to share my displeasure with Tricia. As I lamented about the increasing secularization of society and the increasing disregard for the important foundations of our Judeo-Christian society, Tricia looked at me with that "I’ve got lots of other things to do" look and asked, "You really heard all that listening to 'O Holy Night' in the county building? Isn’t it a good thing that Christ was in that building even for a little?"
As I drove around later that day, and three different versions of "O Holy Night" were on various radio stations at the same time, I thought back to my conversation with Tricia. How is what I hear affected by what I am listening for? Whether it’s with my family, friends, or in my faith, can I attune my ears to listen past the noise of my circumstances and surroundings and hear the most important thing, hear the deepest truth? It is easy to find contradiction, hypocrisy, and plenty of things that disappoint me. But can I listen for the sweet sounds of the Lord’s presence in the midst of that which is otherwise discouraging or sterile? As we celebrate this Christmas season in the midst of a world that doesn’t feel quite so festive, let’s be the people of hope who can invite others to listen more deeply for tidings of comfort and joy.