I know this is the January issue of of Church Life, but I want to say a word or two about Christmas. Last month's column dealt with the U.C.C.'s "God Is Still Speaking" ads -- hardly a Christmas theme. Besides, our production schedule for this month means you are probably reading these words at least a few days before Christmas. So humor me.
I want to share a Christmas poem I recently re-discovered. There is no title, but you might enjoy it...
We hope that on this Christmas Eve
I'm under no illusion about this poem. I know it isn't great poetry. Shakespeare or Wordsworth it's not. But there's something simplistically beautiful about it to me.
The words remind me of the real reason why we work so hard at this time of year. And I don't mean the shopping and gift wrapping. I'm talking about the special worship services, the music, the programs, the activities, and the thousand-and-one details that make them all come alive. We do it because of "the Christ Child who came that midnight clear."
No, the words of the poem will not win any poetry contest. But I can't help remembering something written by Rick Bragg in his book All Over But the Shouting. After a response to one his newspaper articles was particularly well-received by the people he wrote about, Bragg said, "It's not that I had gotten it right. God knows I mess up a lot. But I had gotten it true."
That's what this poem is all about. The author may not have gotten the words right, but the author got them true. And in my book, getting them true counts for more than all the literary prowess in the world.
Oh, there's one more reason why I am particularly drawn to this poem. It was written for a Sunday School class of four-year-olds in 1959 at White Oak Hills Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia - the church where I was baptized.
The author was my grandmother, Ruth Paris.
Grandmother, you may not have gotten it right, but you got it true. And I'm grateful.