Cries In The Night At Christmas

Friday, December 24, 1999

Isaiah 58:9 – Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say: Here am I. (NIV)

Most churches and denominations have a program for teens and young people. In my case, it was the Presbyterian Young People's Society. It was a rite of passage for myself, and thousands more teens over the years.

One year, when I was in high school, my minister had the idea of "planting" some questions in the congregation for the Christmas Eve Service. The idea was that when the teen heard a pre-arranged cue phrase in the sermon, he or she would stand up, and "interrupt" the sermon with the question. This was all pre-arranged, and it was the minister's brainwave. I got the first question.

The church was packed on Christmas Eve. Many of my school friends were there. I was ready to stand up and blurt out my "question". I heard my cue and stood up in the middle of the congregation and yelled, "Hey wait a minute, what about…?" I've forgotten the question. But I still remember the reaction — the gasps from the adults. I was told later that two ushers marched up the main aisle ready to collar me. However, the minister said, "Let me answer his question…." and then went on with his pre-arranged answer. By the time the second and third questions came out, the congregation had got the idea.

It's been said that the Presbyterian motto for worship is "decently and in good order". I don't know how well this would fit. What I do know is that there is a place for questions at Christmas.

Christmas, in most parts of Canada, comes in the middle of a long cold winter. Many of us have absorbed enough stress for two people, and the cold dark winter days don't help any. People are asking, "Is it worth it?"; "Why am I doing this?"; or even, "Why am I on this earth?" "Is it going to make any difference?"

God hears the cries of all of His children. More than that, anticipating those cries, God has done something — something on such a scale that the cosmos is still ringing with the repercussions.

In the mystery that lies at the heart of everything, before all time and space, a decision was made that the eternal Godhead would come to this earth, at a specific place and time. God, yes; but also in perfect human form. He would have a name — Emmanuel — "God with us".

We hear another cry in the night, on Christmas Eve. This one is far older than the question I yelled out years ago. This is the cry of a Baby trying to sleep in a straw-filled manger, of all places. So human! He had a tough time of it, right from His first human breaths. The sky overhead was filled with unearthly light, and the shepherds were babbling about choirs of angels.

But there is a difference. His cries don't come with questions. They come with answers. Indeed, this child is the answer the whole human race is looking for. The answer to our deepest problems and needs. The answer to the question, "What is the meaning of life?" The answer to "How can I go on?" when you stand at the graveside of someone you loved. The answer to "What now?" when you are face to face with anything, even death itself.

So, let us not be bashful about asking our questions at Christmas. The Answer is right here.

Prayer: Dear Lord, this blessed season can be so frustrating and distracting. Please remind us all that as we search for everything from a parking spot, the perfect gift, to even a reason to go on, that the answer is here, and the answer is You. Help us remember the season is not in the largest wrapped box, but the largest heart, unwrapped with kind deeds to others. Amen.

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Bruce M. Dinsmore <>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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