On Saturday night a group of Christmas carolers from our church descended upon the dementia ward of a local nursing home. We sang songs for a dear old saint who has pretty much seemed lost to the fog of this awful disease that steals people, synapse by synapse, from those they love while they are still living. He was in his pyjamas when we got there, ready for bed. He didn’t know who we were or why we were there, but he smiled and laughed and clapped along while we sang. He even tried to sing along for a few lines as the scrambled memories fought their way back. I watched him as we sang, wondering which of these familiar Christmas words, if any, might find a way through. There were only two, during O, Come All Ye Faithful: Yea Lord… But then the moment passed. He lay down in his bed and drifted off as we sang.
Last night, this dear man’s children brought him to our Christmas Eve service. It was the first time he had been in church for probably three years at least. He smiled at those who greeted him but the confusion was thick. I thought back to when I first started at the church and we would have deep theological conversations. He was a professor at the local university and well-read in theology. He had big questions. I enjoyed our talks. Now, he could only smile as his children wheeled him into our candle-lit sanctuary.
During my opening remarks, I mentioned that I was happy to see him at the service. I waved at him. His face lit up and he waved back. I was told later this was one of the very few times he has recognized his name lately. This made me happy. Yea, Lord! I was also told later that someone in the church had triggered a memory of his late wife and he had actually spoken her name aloud for the first time in years. Yea, Lord! Tiny little trickles of goodness on Christmas Eve.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight… Yes, thanks be to God, and this morning, too. For there are plenty of hopes and fears to meet. They come in all kinds of varieties and sizes and shapes. Some can barely be expressed, they simply show up in a smile, a wave, a half-forgotten name dragged back into the light. And the Christ child comes to us again, full of grace and truth. To carry our burdens, take on our humanity, teach us the way of peace, and conquer the last enemy to be defeated which is death.
Yea Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning. Jesus, to Thee be all glory given.
I’ve used the image above before but it’s one of my favourites for this season. It is called “The Nativity” and was created by “Christopher Ruane. It is taken from the 2017-18 edition of the Christian Seasons Calendar.