"Hey Doug, welcome back. Where’ve you been?"
"North, playing Santa for hurricane Sandy…or whatever they’re calling her these days." ( I was adjusting insurance claims.)
"Oh, wow. First it was Super Storm Sandy and then Sandy Hook, and now the end of the world. Everything’s nuts..."
Joe rambled on about the woes of the world. Each word a dead weight pressed hard against my shoulders. The suns warmth shown in beads along his forehead. I was trying to listen, but his words blurred, as a gentle breeze carried the sound of music... Christmas music.
I no longer stood in my driveway talking to the neighbor. Instead, I walked the grounds of The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte North Carolina.
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Where’s that coming from? I wondered as I wandered down the brick sidewalk through the trees.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
The music surrounded as if the air was made of it, so I inhaled peace, long and slow and deep.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
The fatigue of working seven days a week melted. Maybe the trees were singing as they waved their praise in the cool morning air.
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
My six week deployment ended with a day off, which was spent preparing to leave. I returned the rental car; moved to a hotel near the airport with shuttle service and visited this picturesque place in honor of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. For over half a century and counting God has proclaimed through this ministry the simple message of Christmas throughout the entire world.
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth
Wrapped in a blanket of sunshine and music I sat on a path side bench. Birds swirled ribbons around the trees, while a squirrel waltzed around the trunk. It was the stuff nursery rhymes were made of.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
What a perfect day, all is well here and now…but not for all.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
At the same time sounds of peace echoed through the trees, in another place, screams and pleas for release echoed, and bullets ricocheted through the halls of a sleepy little place called Sandy Hook. Separation of Church and State wasn’t thought of.
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
Prayers shot to the ears of He who hears. "Dear Lord help us, deliver us, save us…" Evil entered an angry young man and manifest itself in the slaughter of innocents. It’s what evil does. But if we'd listen we could hear, amidst the cries, angel’s wings carrying the dear children Home.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
(To be continued...)