A Thrill of Hope

A Thrill of Hope, by Laurel Droz
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” — O Holy Night

I’m decorating for Christmas early this year. I usually wait until Thanksgiving has ended to usher in the holiday in it’s proper order, but this year I won’t. This year I flipped my radio in my car over to Christmas music the day after Halloween, and when the words “I need a little Christmas, right this very minute” were proclaimed from my speakers, I sang right along with them and I meant every word.

I always enjoy Christmas but this year I’m downright craving it. I want eggnog and colorful bulbs. I want Christmas cards and a crackling fire. I want to sing along with the old songs that were piped through the stereo when my own parents were only children.

I want Rudolph and Charlie Brown, ugly Christmas sweaters and the crinkle of wrapping paper as I try to wrap some oddly shaped toy for my children. I want to pierce the cold nights with tiny, twinkling lights and to watch the way the snow shines like glitter when then light catches it just right.

I want to huddle with my kids beneath a pile of thick blankets and read them the poem about Christmas Eve my mother read to me, and I want to loudly read off the names of the reindeers when we get to that bit, as if by shouting them out into the stillness we might drive out the dark.

And that’s what it is really—these days feel dark.

It seems like every few days there is some new tragedy to grieve, some new pressing horror to wrap our minds around. I know, I know: “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” But I am. I am afraid because we live in a time when our loved ones might be killed when they go to a concert or when they worship in church. I am afraid when my children practice hiding quietly from an active shooter in their school the way we used to practice taking shelter from a tornado. I am afraid that the things that divide us and send us nipping at the heels of our family, friends and neighbors have cut us too deeply and we might never feel united again. I am afraid because some days it all seems so dark, and the world is growing very weary indeed.

But Christmas has a sort of magic to it that combats all that. A child is born and the weary world rejoices. Sins are forgiven, hope is ushered in and we have something to sing about. We are given tidings of great joy with the birth of this baby, Jesus. And we light up the darkness and fill the night with songs because of that. Because we still feel that thrill of hope. That’s the power of Christmas.

Years ago I found an old scrapbook of my grandfather’s from when he was a trumpet player in the army in World War II. He had saved the lyrics from a song they had played at a Christmas performance called “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I ran my fingertips over the yellowed paper with the words on it and read:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

But that wasn’t the part that stood out. What touched me then and still hums in my mind today is this part:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

I will not wait this year to decorate for Christmas. I will sing the old songs loudly, I will put out twinkling lights to pierce the night. And though it is dark, I will celebrate.

 A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices—and not a moment too soon.

Matthew Schuler