You say you want to just sidestep all those jingle bells this year? You say the times have been so challenging that you ask yourself what is there to celebrate?
The whole year has been a struggle financially. Or, you face health problems and can’t afford the medication you need. Maybe, you are one of the many who have no extra health insurance. The system just does not account for you. As you wander the aisles of the local Salvation Army’s secondhand store hoping to find a winter coat that will fit because the lining is all worn out of the one you have now, you wonder how you will be able to give even one gift this Christmas. Even mailing Christmas cards will be a stretch because of the cost of postage. Is that what’s bothering you today?
Yet, the Spirit of Christmas can at times sneak up on even the most world-worn among us. In truth, it can happen like this: In the midst of everyone else’s shopping and purchasing activities you find yourself standing in the busiest subway station at one of the busiest times of the day. As you weave through the crowd, making your way from one level to the next, down the stairs from the north-south line to the east-west line, you hear the opening strains of a musical number flowing from the amp attached to the electric guitar being fingered by one of those talented subway buskers. And, as you make your way to your platform, the music cascades down the stairs after you, washing over you like some kind of holy water.
You peer to read the signs that tell how long it’s going to take before the next train arrives, and you find yourself feeling enchanted. It’s the music. And as you look over the growing crowd you hear the busker’s singing from the level above. “Hallelujah.”
Then the music, like some kind of cleansing force, begins to wash over the entire waiting crowd.
And there on one of the benches sitting transfixed is a woman laden with bags who looks as if her soul has just been rescued by the grace of the music, and you hear the chorus again. Like an ocean wave the sound floats over and through the crowd, and everyone seems to be moving just a bit more slowly. But are they swaying to the sound that continues to cascade down the stairs? The liquid guitar notes, the hallelujahs?
What a present to be standing in the midst of a precious moment of humanity.
If the busker had been in a room alone, who but he could have been moved by his utterances? But there has to be a thousand people on that platform on this afternoon. And yet, the eyes go back to the woman who seems at once burdened, at once relieved by the blessing of the song. The hallelujah that seems to come from her – although she does not utter a word – flows from her eyes locked into the music, beseeching and blessed at the same time.
Who would have expected in this place to suddenly be part of this hallelujah?
It becomes an out-of-body moment, waiting for a train but not really caring whether or not it came because the more important moment is the unexpected one in which each person there is gifted by the sound of the singer, the magic of the melody and the lyrics that keep refraining. Hallelujah!
So, for that instant in the midst of all the suffering that life can be and all the mistakes that every human makes, there is this moment of grace borne on the sweet strings of the guitar and the sound of hallelujah. And for a brief eternity you could share with so many others in the cathedral of humanity what it means to feel the heaven that we can share, on a day so close to Christmas. As the sound of the arriving train begins to rise, as it grows and blends into the sound of the hallelujahs, the fleeting essence of such a perfect moment makes it all the more precious.
The train comes in. People get off and other people get on. And even as the moment fades and the train rolls out of the station, the hallelujahs hang on. In fact, days after, one can still hear the echo of the Hallelujahs.
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.
A note on giving to the food bank…
At this time of year it would be well to remember that a can of ackee or breadfruit donated to the food bank will go a long way to making someone’s Christmas a little more Caribbean.