The great cellist Pablo Casals, in the story of his life called Joys and Sorrows, recalls the first time he went to church on Christmas Eve. He was five years old. He tells about walking to the church in a small village in Spain, hand-in-hand with his father, the church organist. As he walked, he shivered, not because the night was chilly, but because it was all so exciting and mysterious.
I felt that something wonderful was about to happen. High overhead, the heavens were full of stars. In the narrow, dark streets there were moving figures, shadowy and silent. Then suddenly there was a burst of light flooding from the open doors of the church. We moved into that light silently. Then, just as suddenly, my father broke the silence with music from the organ. And we all sang. And when I sang, it was my heart that was singing, and I poured out everything that was within me.
Casals remembered that night, even in his old age. He remembered a time when a shiver ran the length of his backbone, and it had nothing to do with the chill of the air. It was a time when it went beyond his singing, but his heart was singing—a time of being grabbed by something that went beyond words, but not beyond feelings.
Most of us have known times like those Casals describes, a time when we saw or heard something so beautiful that we felt we could not breathe. Perhaps it was a time when we were grabbed by powerful feelings and we shivered—and it had nothing to do with the chill of the air. Maybe it was a time when we did not sing, but our hearts sang, a time in a worship service when we knew we were in the presence of God.
Life often seems to move too quickly for us to have many of those kinds of experiences. An anticipated new year moves forward quickly, before we are ready. When it does arrive, the “new” comes crashing into our lives with a fanfare of commercials and advertisements that dull our senses. Numbed by the hustle and bustle, profit-making, and commerce, many people miss the wonder of all that the world has experienced in the past year and instead look forward to their return to the normal everyday routines of life.
Take time for reflection as well as anticipation. John wrote about this in the Gospel of John 1:4–5, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
This is John’s call and warning for us to pause and take a deep breath during change from one year to another. That is why it is so important for us to gather together as a community of believers. We need that powerful feeling of love, which began with God and now extends from Him to us and from us to others. We need to take time to once again see Jesus and recognize His presence among us.
As we anticipate the new and look back poignantly on the past, let’s take time to welcome Jesus into the busyness of our lives and to make room for Him in our calendars. Let’s open our ears to His voice, our eyes to see Him, our hearts to feel His presence in our lives. May Christ fill our homes this year with warmth and goodness, with truth and beauty, with light and love, and may the morning star rise in our hearts.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” May His light be your light. May His life be your life. May you find new birth in His birth. And may the light of His presence in your heart and life lead you to declare, "Oh, the Glory of His Presence!”
As Casals wrote, “I felt that something wonderful was about to happen.”
This year, let’s live with expectation that something wonderful is always happening because God is at work in the world.
David W. Graves, general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene