Last night the kids and I went Christmas caroling with some friends from church. For whatever reason, I haven’t done this much over the years. But my daughter had been enthusiastic about it all week. And my son, well, we bribed him with the prospect of pizza after our caroling was done.
It was a perfect night. A gentle snow was falling, which was most welcome after a week of warm temperatures and hurricane force winds had conspired to turn the landscape rather brown and bleak. It was cold, but not too cold. It was like a Christmas night out of the movies—a night made for piling into cars and driving around town and singing songs about a holy night and the dawn of redeeming grace. We divided into two groups, each with songbooks, a list of addresses, and an itinerary (we have some logistically gifted people in our church!). We wanted to make sure we made it to as many people as we could, particularly those who were shut in or in hospital or lonely this Christmas.
And of course, there were some poignant moments along the way. Like our stop at one seniors home where the 2-3 people we had “officially” come for were joined by a handful of other stragglers, drawn in by and gradually adding to our joyous strains. Or the tear-streaked cheeks of one woman whose husband is in hospital this Christmas, who stood at the door with her dog while we shivered out our Joy to the World’s. Or the man with Alzheimer’s who couldn’t remember the words but hummed along the tune in perfect harmony beside me (what must he have thought, I wondered, when we sang, “And you, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing?”). Or the clapping and cheering I heard from across the back alley after we had finished singing at our last stop. Or the hugs and smiles and Merry Christmas’s that followed each visit. It wasn’t a silent night, but it certainly felt like a holy one.
One of the highlights of this year’s Christmas carol tour was stopping at one of our Syrian families’ home. They were sitting in the living room with another family over who had just arrived in Canada a few weeks ago, and insisted that we come in instead of standing out in the cold. They proceeded to haul out their phones to record us singing. They even joined in once we gave them books, because they knew the tunes, if not all the English words. And once we were done, four of the Syrian kids and young adults decided to pile into the van and come with us for the remainder of the tour. During the last stop I paused during a few songs and just marveled at the sight of a wide-eyed young Syrian boy standing among all these strangers singing songs he couldn’t understand under the gently falling snow of a Canadian Christmas.
After our singing was done, the two groups reconvened for pizza and goodies. There were smiles and stories and laughter and lights and colour, even a hockey game on the TV (for what could be more Canadian?!). And, of course, more singing. There were Canadians and Syrians and Germans, young people, middle-aged people, older people, people who sang magnificently and people who could barely hold a tune, some with long traditions of Christmas caroling and some who were just there for the pizza. There we all sat, on the night before the night before Christmas. It was in some ways an unlikely collection of humanity. But then again, perhaps it was the most likely thing in the world, for those of us who have been touched by the birth of this king, those who look ahead to the day
when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.
Like I said, not a silent night. Not by any means. But a holy one for certain.