Advent devotion: O Holy Night, indeed
By Paula Durham
Christmas is full of meaningful traditions for me, but is also a time of change and newness. The Christmas stockings handmade by my Grandma for my brother and me, and the family Christmas tree ornaments were anchors through several houses in which my family celebrated Christ’s birth. Our Christmas dinner menu was pretty stable, even though the dining room was new every few years, and the guests around the table changed as new friends and relatives were added, or we moved to a new community.
I learned to embrace change so that developing our own traditions while raising two boys was a comfortable blending of old and new: new stockings for new babies, new ornaments as travel souvenirs and gifts, the crèche with more characters added through the years, my mom’s 1967 wise men still appearing annually, and new friends with old and new family around the table.
Anchoring my soul and my heart through the changes during my life is Christmas Eve worship. The same story, heard with new ears each year, read from different pulpits, and carols sung with abandon or quiet reverence, always with love. One year after a young girl sang “O Holy Night,” my mom leaned over and shared the whispered secret that this was her favorite carol. For the years that followed, we squeezed hands, or winked and smiled at each other over her grandchildren’s heads when we heard this carol.
The family and friends in the pew have changed – new ones blessing my life and others now winking and singing with me in spirit. The pew has changed to new new churches in new towns, but the story told in each is constant: the story of love that comes to us each year, each day. The carols I sing in each church tell the same lovely, faithful, miraculous story. O Holy Night, indeed.
Paula Durham is the business manager at St. Paul Lutheran Church. She has two adult sons, several grandchildren, and lives in Muscatine.