My father died December 18, 2010. The song O Holy Night was sung at his funeral. It was beautiful and fitting. It celebrates a light in the darkness, a rescue for a people in need, and the conquering of death in a world where we still must physically die. It tells us of an eternal rescue of human beings, brought to earth in the most paradoxical way. The rescue came to earth in a way that defeats our best figuring and leaves us in the powerlessness of mystery and the vulnerability of trust. Only a child can understand the defeat of figuring and the powerlessness of mystery. Children can believe without proof and can accept on hope alone. They can look at the crèche at Christmas and believe and accept the hope of a bright star in the distance, shepherds in the field, a baby in a manger, wise men with gifts, and the Son of God born of a virgin, resting in the arms of his mother. They can hear the angels’ voices.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on you knees
O hear the angels voices
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born.
Being so close to Christmas after the funeral, I heard O Holy Night again at Christmas Eve church service. I cried quietly about my father’s death six days before and the song itself. My father was gone. No more eyes meeting, no more time, no more “Hey, son”, no more blessings. I cried about the song, too. It has always stopped me, saddened me, and comforted me. It saddens me because of how much breaking and savagery there is in this world. It comforts me because a great light did come in a person, and he never left because Emmanuel, God with us, is still here.
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The song and my grief mixed together, and I wept like a child, needing to hear something. In the midst of my tears, I pictured my father standing on the edge of a great land, very grand. Between him on the edge and me was the gap, the place that had been crossed. He was on the edge of heaven, waiting to tell me something before he went on in and I couldn’t see him again. He looked at me and knew that I was crying hard. He said, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” I told him that, “I know” in my mind. “Son, it’s okay,” he said. I told him, “I know,” again. He then told me that he needed to go and he looked sad and full of joy. I cried and said, “Okay,” and he turned and walked away. He knew he would see me again. I knew that I would see him again. All things would be made new because of that one most magnificent, incredible, marvelous, ineffable Holy Night.