O Holy Night

By John Kass

December 24, 2022

 For all the children who should be loved always, but especially on this night, with our arms wrapped around them and a long goodnight kiss on the temple, a kiss more precious than anything wrapped in a box.

For every parent who stands quietly in the darkened doorways of the bedrooms, watching those small, sleeping shapes.

For all the babies who aren’t loved enough and grow up with a hard crust around their hearts because there was no one near to plant those kisses and give those hugs. And for every couple so full of love, that they adopt a child and save that life.

And for every young mother who has given her baby up for adoption, to save that life growing inside of her. For all those who couldn’t have children of their own. For those who’ve lost their children. For all who’ve lost their moms and dads. For the moms and dads who give everything to keep their family close.

For those crazy uncles who always drink too much tonight, then sneak outside to put on the red suit in the driveway, hopping on one leg, falling in the snow, laughing out there in the cold, before coming back in to surprise the kids.

For those wise aunts who make sure that coffee is strong and black, to help those crazy uncles sober up.

And for everyone in every choir in the world. They’ve been practicing for weeks in cold, empty churches. And so tonight is their night too, their beautiful voices lifting us up with song, inviting us to humble ourselves as we ask for help in scraping away any bitterness that has grown like a hard bark around our hearts.

For those who love you and your children, and don’t wait for a special night to begin building the family. They show up unannounced on some random afternoon in June, or on a cool morning in November– with a coffee cake from your favorite bakery–dropping by just to make sure that you’re OK.

So, tonight is for them, and tomorrow, too, because they are family by friendship and by blood. They are family by the acts of family.

For all the young who are lonely and feel lost and don’t know why. For all those who are far away and can’t make it home this year. For those who are physically near, yet distant in so many other ways, believing that the bad choices they’ve made have locked the door against them.

And now, at the eleventh hour, they wonder if they may ever return home again

Don’t be afraid, because there is good news! Tonight is the night of new hope for the world.

And the door is always open.

Just reach for it and see.

For the good people who help others first. For the children who are hungry and for those who take care to feed them. For the selfish and the mean-spirited, as much as for the good and the kind. Because we’re all hurting somehow.  All of us.

And somehow, we must learn to forgive and embrace and love each other, just as that rabbi, the carpenter’s son, asked us to do so many years ago.

For the shy ones who aren’t part of the ruling clique at work, who aren’t pushy, but just don’t know how to put themselves forward and make themselves noticed. They’d stun you with their grace and talent if only given half a chance.

For every old man at the end of the bar tonight, nursing his drink, wanting a smoke, and grateful to sit still in a warm, clean and well-lighted place to hear the sounds of life going on around him. For every old woman alone  tonight, wide awake in her bed staring at the ceiling, remembering the laughter of children on nights just like this one, when there was so much work to do and a houseful of guests to feed.

For all our four-legged friends who just know it when you’ve received bad news and know what you need. They lean against your leg, or just nuzzle.  But some, like a stubborn dog I know, still hasn’t quite been forgiven for that Christmas Eve years ago when his humans put the big punchbowl of homemade eggnog out on the table on the deck, nestling it in the snow to keep it cool. And later, someone let that dog out, but his human didn’t know he was out there, The dog stuck his big stubborn head deep into the punch bowl to gulp down the spiked eggnog. Confronted, he lifted his head out of the bowl, somewhat buzzed and somewhat surprised, homemade eggnog dripping from his face. He wagged the stub of his tail as if to say “Man, you’ve got to have some of this. It’s so darn tasty.”

And for everyone on the night shift tonight, and those who must work tomorrow, all the first responders—the paramedics, firefighters and police–and the families and friends, especially their children, nieces and nephews waiting for them to come home safe.

For all the kids cut down in the street gang wars in violent big cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, with politicians cynically bartering away the public’s safety in the pursuit of power and votes from those who do violence against the innocent.  For all the cops of these broken cities who can’t bear what such brutal politics have wrought, and internalize it and poison themselves and seek an exit. Please don’t. Please don’t go. Reach out, ask for help. Remember that help is there and you are loved. And remember, the people need you.

For everyone who waits for that call from the doctor only to feel the flutter of dark wings.

For everyone in a hospital tonight praying for dignity, relief from pain, and a peaceful end without shame or suffering. For the families and friends who comfort them and mourn them. For their physicians who tend them. For every nurse who enters a quiet room, pulls up a chair and listens to a quiet confession.

For all the clergy who’ve struggled with their faith, yet who find it again and are renewed.

For every sailor at sea standing watch tonight who stares out into cold black water, remembering brightly lit rooms.

For every member of the U.S. Armed Forces who protect us. And for those of the U.S. Foreign Service and the Intelligence Services who walk into the shadows alone to protect this great nation.

For the American republic, the last hope of liberty on earth. And for the American people, who never, ever quit.

Many have thought of quitting lately, to avoid the dangerous buffoonery on both sides of the jagged political divide. But we must not ever think of quitting.  Our republic is worth saving. American liberty is worth saving. America is worth saving. We will find a way.

To all those whom I’ve hurt with thoughtless words,  I ask your forgiveness. Please. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reconcile this writer’s life that sets me to make some hard judgements against others, and balance that against my Orthodox Christian faith which tells me to leave judgement to God.

It is by such quick, mean and relentless judgements on social media and in the rest of our lives that we become lost in a never-ending battle in the world of politics. We become calloused in our pursuit of righteousness, we become blinded by zeal. We lock the gates of heaven against ourselves. We become like barking dogs frightened by the night.

But is by the love of Christ, prayer and faith that we have been given the opportunity to unlock those gates.

For every one of you who has joined me here in supporting this great new adventure. I am overwhelmed. I almost gave up and quit writing. But those of you who subscribed just wouldn’t let me give up. You gave me the precious gift of responsibility, of a task, of purpose. My family and I can’t ever thank you enough.

And for all those across the world who know what is most important on this special night.

It is not toys or gold or glitzy technology or fur or leather. It has no need of buzz or empty words of praise.

It is that message brought by that perfect child born in the manger in Bethlehem so long ago.

He is the gift. He came to light the world.

He is all about love.

I pray that love comforts you, and remains.

From our family to you and yours.

Merry Christmas.

-30-

(Copyright 2022 John Kass)