We stepped out of the car onto the damp sidewalk in the late afternoon this past Sunday. Under the dreary sky we quickly walked towards our church building for the Christmas Lessons and Carols service. Alabama weather in December can be utterly baffling at times. In the 12 hours prior the temperature had dropped forty degrees! Yes, from 71 to 31 in a blink. A serious wind must accompany this rapid weather change. We leaned into the freezing gusts and entered the sanctuary along with the multitude of people coming to celebrate. We settled in early, happy to have a seat as the same service was offered the day before and over 200 people were turned away because there was no room.
The warmth of the hundred-year-old church welcomed us and provided the perfect acoustics for us to bathe in fellowship and worship. Quite a contrast from the cold dampness and dreariness of the outside. Light was magnified from within through the strings of Edison bulbs hanging around and the bright expressions on each face.
Redeemer Community Church offers a wide array of music for us to feast upon each Sunday and this service was sure to offer the same. The musical gifts within this particular body offer an impressive display beyond imagination. Each week I feel like a salve washes over my soul as we sing together. The type of music, you might ask? The artists play an eclectic mix of contemporary christian music, classic hymns as well as songs that date back to the 18th century set to new melodies. The setting is a tiny stage lit with lamps and a small crowd of musicians playing anything from banjo to mandolin to violin. Genuine hearts can’t be hidden as we are led by these fellow believers.
We nestled in to hear readings from the Word about Christmas and the beautiful music as described. Shoulder to shoulder we bowed in awe at the Christ child that we were beholding together throughout the service.
One of the favorite soloists has recently become a first time mom. I was happy to see that the needs of the new baby hadn’t kept her from participating in the service. I also noticed her husband, the new daddy, swaying in the back of the church with tiny baby tucked in his arms. Many parents welcomed their children into the service since it was Christmas. In quiet moments we heard toddlers small voices, baby cries and little coughs and sniffles all around. It added to the feeling of gathering as a family.
The new mama would sing a song or two then make her way back to cradle the babe and reassure him when not needed on stage. She would then ease back up to the stage without any distraction and sing at her appointed times. During one of the softer moments of worship her baby cried out a bit. As I watched I noticed that she went from looking down at the floor to glancing up and grinning at her husband as if to say, “I hear him.” It was amazing to me that she heard and recognized his tiny cry amidst all other babies and toddlers in the room tuning in here and there throughout the time of worship. She had only known that cry for a couple of months, yet she clearly recognized it and knew that was her baby.
And even though the newborn couldn’t understand, I felt as if her glance up and her reassuring smile was not just for the daddy but somehow for the baby too.
"I recognize your cry."
“I haven’t left you, I’m still here.”
“I love the sound of your tiny voice. It makes me smile.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be right back.”
And in that moment, God gave me my very own personal Christmas gift. He spoke to me through the picture before my eyes.
In a world of cries, He hears and recognizes me.
He smiles at me when I cry out because I am His own.
He hasn’t left me but comes to nestle me.
Sending Jesus, His only Son, was God’s response to a world crying out - to my crying out. This is what Christmas is all about.
In grateful response, I pray.
“Father, I am weak - You are strong.
I am blind - You can see.
I am scared - You are brave.
I am incomplete - You are perfect.
I am inadequate - You are sufficient.
I fluctuate - You stay the same.
I am insecure - You are the Rock.
I am alone - You are ever present.
I am hungry - You satisfy.
I cry out - You hear me.”
And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, "Abba, Father.” -Galatians 4:6
. . . because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! - 2 Corinthians 9