Christmas Eve on Ancient Paths

Perhaps you have noticed, dear Reader, that while much of the world seems to gear itself up for the 25th of December, the 24th has a special feel of its own?  Christmas Eve, December the 24th, the day before.  

But in the year 2020, how the warm Christmas lights and the push for normalcy seems a paradox.  The deaths mount in numbers that are hard to comprehend and they carry with them the sorrows of families intertwined with the suffering of those they love.  While some push to do life as normal, others real from loss and still others seek shelter from a raging pandemic storm that threatens from all sides.  The country stands divided after a bitter election, and the pains of social injustice seem never soothed.  The economy suffers, people are out of work.  In other years, the 24th has felt a special and still sort of Peace compared to the rush of the day the follows. This year, it is a surreal feeling Eve that is upon us.

I heard the cannons in the south ... and with the sound the Carols drowned.  - Longfellow

I remember a wintery day long ago from the old Inland Empire.  The rolling hills of the Palouse were barren and covered with a course and gritty snow, and the winds howled as only a treeless landscape enables them.  It is along a piece of the former Northern Pacific, near Pullman, WA where the track sweeps away to the north east and an old elevator that has weathered many storms endures beneath its galvanized exterior.  Many lives have passed by it and passed within it.  Trains of grain and goods, Budd RDC cars that connected the people here, and the ever passing string of cars on the nearby old highway have come and gone in their appointed times. 

The old paths here seem ancient compared to the far newer social media networks.  While chaos seems to reign across those new ways we've built, there is quiet in places like this.  It is both detached and silent in its way.  It is disconcerting to put oneself here, and oh how our own brief moment on this Earth seems all the more temporary.  On a Christmas Eve in a bitter and divided year perhaps the detachment represented by these old paths could bring some relief?  We are not as big as we think we are, and we are not as good as we think we are.  I certainly am not, and along these old ways, it is far easier to understand that.

There - beyond the last of the hills that rises in the background - is it a horizon line of hope that beckons?  I pray for Peace in these times and a Christmas Eve that considers the ancient paths that show a way forward and out of our darkness.

This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'
Jeremiah 6:16

Comments said…
Leland you certainly do know how to put feelings into words. Thank you so very much for the great Christmas Eve message. My wishes for a safe healthy and peaceful Christmas. Ole
As always, profound and beautifully written.
Unknown said…
Thank you all - and Merry Christmas
Fred M. Cain said…
I have an experience that I can share here that perhaps you can understand. I was at a tragic funeral a few of years ago in southern Indiana where a family man died in his forties – essentially in the prime of his life – from a brain aneurism. It was a sad funeral. At the end of the service his immediate family went up to his coffin for one last, final viewing. It was very emotional. Everyone was choked up and I was fighting to hold back the tears.

Then I heard it. The blast of an air horn in the distance – not far away – of a long freight blasting through town on the old B&O St Louis line. It snapped be back to reality. I was suddenly overcome by the sensation that everything was going to be all right. I can’t explain it really but it was reassuring. It’s like, even in death, the trains are still running. The world goes on.

It will be a sad day when they finally stop. That might just be the end of the world.

Fred M. Cain

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