O Holy Night

By John Kass

For all the children who should be loved always, but especially on this Holy 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 standing 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.

For every couple that adopts a child and saves a life. For every young mother who has given her baby up for adoption to save that life inside her.

For all the couples who’ve tried to have children of their own, and were unable, and stare at the night ceiling until dawn. For all those who’ve lost children. For everyone who has lost their moms and dads.

For the crazy uncles who always drink too much tonight, then sneak outside to put on the red suit in the driveway, wobbling out there in the cold, before coming back in to surprise the kids. And for those wise aunts  who make sure that coffee is strong and black, to help those crazy uncles sober up.

For all the men and women in every choir of the world. They’ve been practicing for weeks in cold, empty churches.

Tonight is their night too, as their beautiful voices lift us with song, inviting us to humble ourselves as we ask for help in scraping away the bitterness that has grown like a hard bark around our hearts.

For all your friends and relatives who don’t wait for a special night to begin building a family. All year they’ve been building it, nurturing it with their time and concern.

They show up unannounced on a random afternoon in June. Or they just might show up on a cool morning in November– with a coffee cake from your favorite bakery–dropping by just to see your face,  give you a hug, and make certain you’re OK.

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

For all the young who are lonely and lost and don’t know why. For everyone who is far away and can’t make it home this year.

And for those who are physically near, yet distant in so many other ways, feeling that their bad choices have locked the door behind them. And now, at the eleventh hour, they wonder if they may ever return home. Tonight, tell them this:

Don’t fear. This is the night of new hope for the world.

The door is always open.

Just reach for it and see.

For all those who’ve become ill from the virus, and for those who’ve lost loved ones. For all who survived the murderous destruction of the tornadoes that recently hit Kentucky and other states.

And for everyone crushed by violent crime rising across the country that claims the innocent, the perfect and imperfect. For the police officers shot while confronting violence, including Mesquite Police Officer Richard Houston, whose 18-year-old daughter Shelby delivered the inspiring eulogy in the voice of an angel at her daddy’s funeral.

For Chicago Police officer Ella French. And so many others.

For the good people who help each other. For the children who are hungry and those who feed them. For the selfish and for the kind.

For the shy ones who aren’t part of the ruling clique at work, yet who’d stun you with their grace and talent if you gave them the chance.

And for every old man at the end of the bar tonight, nursing his drink, wishing he could smoke, grateful to sit still in a warm, clean and well-lighted place, and hear the sounds of life going on around him.

And for every old woman alone in her room tonight, wide awake in her bed, remembering the laughter of children on nights like this, when there was so much to do and a houseful of guests to feed.

For everyone who’s received that call from the doctor and felt the flutter of dark wings.

For everyone on the night shift tonight, and those who must work tomorrow,  and all the first responders and their families waiting for them to come home safe.

For everyone in hospital tonight praying for dignity, relief from pain, and a peaceful end without shame or suffering.

For their physicians who tend them. For every nurse who enters those quiet rooms, and pulls up a chair to listen to quiet confessions.

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

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

For all the members of the U.S. Armed Forces. And for those of the U.S. Foreign Service and the Intelligence Services who walk into shadow alone. For their families.

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

To all those whom I’ve hurt with thoughtless phrases, I ask your forgiveness as I struggle to reconcile this life I’ve chosen–a writer’s life that involves sometimes making hard judgements–against my Greek Orthodox faith that tells me to judge not.

For every one of you who has joined me here in supporting this great new adventure. I am overwhelmed. My family and I can’t thank you enough.

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

It is a message brought to us by that perfect child, born in a manger in Bethlehem, so very long ago.

He is the light of the world.

He is the gift.

And His gift is all about love.

I hope it comes to you, and comforts you, and remains.

Merry Christmas.

-30-

(Copyright 2021 John Kass)

 

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