There’s a video going around YouTube this Christmas of Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma recording an ancient song called the Wexford Carol, and right at the start, before they begin, Krauss says, “Maybe we can get it on the first pass.” And Ma laughs and says “Maybe. If you’re lucky… We should be so lucky.”
The good news of Christmas is that we don’t have to get it in right on the first pass: Christ came because we had not gotten it right — not at all. Christ came to set it right for us, so that, somehow, we could learn from him to set it right, too. Christ came because of God’s mercy, given even to people who will never get it right, but who still keep on yearning to be more than we are on our own.
And so, this night, we begin again: with the singing and the prayers, with the candles and the holly, pushing back against the darkness with all the weight of holy joy. It may seem like a small thing, to pit one night of joy against all the suffering in this world — and yet, we must begin somewhere, and why not with the birth of a child, with something that evokes tenderness in even the hardest of hearts.
The mystery of God is that tenderness can defeat violence, that hope always overcomes despair, that when the problems that beset us are overwhelming, it is the very smallest things that give us courage to keep on keeping on. And so, rejoice tonight, and every night. Let your joy shine, for it is a holy thing. Joy always comes from God.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (I Thess 5:16-24)