Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas Eve 2016: Merry Christmas. Happy Christmas. Feliz Navidad

Christmas Eve 

It’s Christmas Eve. And warm. Outdoor cafes are full. The pre-Christmas rush at Barney Greengrass.  Almost…a big almost…as busy a time as then High Holy Days. One of the customers there jokes, Yeah Jewish Christmas…breakfast Barney Greengrass,  a movie and Chinese food…Yesterday when I stopped in for coffee, I even joined in the relay line awhile…

Earlier today. Pat and Leila and Dion all helped get the place ready.
Leila and Pat decorated
Now Jed is rehearsing at the piano and Dion, Berik and Leila making farolitos for our front steps. A taste of navidad en estilo de santa fe right here in the Upper West Side.
Farolitos light the way
Tells people we’re here. Welcomes them. Makes me happy.

As always, I am anxious. Who will be here? Will it be OK? Will my boys feel good about it?
Pastor Brashear and sons
They’ve lived through the year of the service on the steps in front of locked gates. Years with only them and a few homeless. Then the signs of returning hope…two years ago with Ralph Farris of ETHEL and last year with Carman Moore and his premiered new carols.

Not to worry. A couple comes by at around 6:30. We’re still getting ready. The people start to stream in. There’s my bandmates Pat from Ireland and Rabbi Steve, Ted and Asya from the Center. Tourists. Neighbors. All will be well. 

The service begins. We light the Advent candles. With other music, Jed and I do the Lo How a Rose/The rose medley again. And its time for my reflection. I hold my light up lotus blossom and ask who knows what it is ? John R knows.
John R, Pastor Bob, Dion and Berik
I tell how our predecessors used this design from the Buddhist tradition for  our baptismal font back at he turn of the last century. Very rare form the time. And how back in early December, I  was at Riverside Church for a Buddhist transmittal of the light ceremony.. With Some 500 Chinese Buddhist priests, and an equal number of others. There was my friend TK as a Japanese Buddhist representative. And an imam. And me, representing the Christians.
Lotus blossom light

I could only understand a small portion of what happened. Although the chants were intoxicating. But there was this moment. The altar was filled with these lotus blossoms. Priests came to the altar. Took the blossoms and passed then out through the congregation. And I watched as the lights came on and their glow spread throughout the sanctuary. 

It was still early enough in December to be Hanukkah. I spoke of how their ceremony reminded me of our Christmas Eve ceremony. And how in Hanukkah, even though the miracle was about oil that lasted 8 days before running out, it had been decided to add a candle a  day instead of the other way because light in the world must always grow.

Just like in Advent, we add a candle every week. The light must always grow.

There seems to be a need deeper than any of our traditions to celebrate light in the darkness of winter. Something archetypal, primordial even. Deep. 

It’s been a dark time. Baghdad. Paris. Beirut. The shootings in San Bernadino. And all across the country. An average of one a day. Police violence and Black Lives Matter. Refugees and migrants in flight, across the globe, even as the Holy family had to flee a homicidal despotic ruler. More than enough darkness. But we celebrate light. 

We celebrate God’s full humanity in the midst of ours. Coming to know us fully. Know our hurts and pains. Joys and sorrows. Announced first to shepherds. Those who work outside the gates. Those who are looked on with suspicion when they come inside. Born in a makeshift shelter in the midst if animals. Shelter where it can be found.

I wonder where the child would be born tonight. To workers in the back of kitchens where Christmas Eve dinners are served. To the deli and bodega workers in the middle of the night. In a van belonging to Christmas tree sellers from Quebec. Or even in the midst of the homeless, gathered on church steps. Here God dwells with us. And there is light.

The tradition used to be we’d darken our sanctuaries at this point, light a candle from the Christ candle and then pass it out through the sanctuary. As if the world had been all dark but then Jesus came and presto –changeo, LIGHT. 

But here it is….the light has always been here, always. Since the very first day when God said, Let there be light, and there was, and God saw that it  was good. Light when the children of Israel aid enough and walked out of the empire with Moses and light when the prophets called on their own people to return to justice, it’s sometimes dim, sometimes hard to see but always there. Even in our own time. 

So tonight, we won't bring our sanctuary to darkness. But we will each share our own light until all the candles glow. And as we pass the light, we will sing Silent Night.

In this silent moment, as we share our light. Listen…to the sounds of traffic out on the street, to the tree sellers from Quebec loading up to return to their families, on such a night the human one comes…

As you look at your own light, see it glow, take it with you. Let the light of your life be light for others…

And from up front , I watch as the light grows. 

As always, we end with Joy to the World. I’ll linger. Greet every visitor. One woman tells me it’s her third visit this week, came and was surprised by Fools’ Mass. Then came back for Antigona. Then had to come for Christmas Eve.  Linger with Pat and Ana and my boys. Many, like rabbi Steve, walk out to the street carrying their light with them.
Rabbi Steve, Pastor Bob, Jed Distler
On the steps, Pat reminds me in Ireland, it’s Happy Christmas…

Many of the Antigona cast members are from Spain. Spending Christmas away from family. So Martin has invited the Noche family to gather at a Spanish restaurant for una grande celebracion de Noche Buena. My boys and I, Dion and his lady will join them. There will be endless tapas, free flowing vino y cerveza y sangria. Pollos estofados y flan y postres. And around 11, the flamenco singers will burst into song, deep, dark and passionate. 
Canciones flamencos

Feliz navidad. Merry Christmas. 
Martin, Pastor Bob y Xianix

1 comment:

  1. wasn't feeling well again, but merry christmas ya'll! puppy and blueberry send their holiday greetings too! woof woof!