I never was an Elvis fan. When he was “ruling the air-waves” my daughters were enraptured by his singing and his gyrating. For me he was just an unleashed child appealing to other unleashed children.
I did my best to keep my daughters looking elsewhere. Of course, I failed; they were deeply committed Elvis fans and grieved his death. He was their hero.
I admit, however, that one of his songs has always had a special place in my Christ-mass remembrances. In 1964 Elvis released a single recording of his “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”
It was a great hit, selling millions of copies. It must have spoken to many people. In all our revelry during November, December, and early January too many of us assume everyone shares our joy. Fun, frolic, and fellowship seem almost mandatory. Not to be in a “holly, jolly, mood” is somehow horribly wrong.
Yet to those isolated and lonely, those seriously ill, deeply in need, or struggling with painful grief, the holidays are the worst time of the year. Facing the reality of death close to Christ-mass is by far the greatest wound for those left behind.
Facing the “empty chair” at the holiday table is such a terrible truth to bear. That song proclaiming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” feels like a cru- el taunt.
Throughout my 40 years of ministry, I’ve been with many such sorrowful souls. I think that’s why Presley’s “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you” becomes so often the heart song of the season.
Was not the woeful wail of Elvis’ song the sad anthem for this year’s holidays? Most of us could not simply set aside the tragedy of the many murders that plagued our land just prior to Christmas.
Of course, the most horrid was the slaughter of the 20 little ones and the 6 valiant protectors at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
This evil darkened all our spirits. Yet immediately following this tragedy, two police officers were gunned down in Topeka. Then four fireman were wounded and two killed in New York.
There were sadly other gun murders throughout the days leading up to Christmas. How many must have faced that “empty chair pain” in their decorated homes? This year truly was a “blue Christmas” for so many grieving families.
Yet as I mentioned last week, the true reason for the season ever offers a glimmer of light that pierces all darkness. In Jesus’ birth, all humanity was given a hope for life beyond our few struggling, stumbling, often sorrowful years in this sinful world.
In the baby Jesus, grace and mercy were bestowed upon all humankind. In His life, death and resurrection He has prepared a place in His Kingdom for each of us. Like Jesus, we too will rise from death to eternal life. So even as we grieve the dead we can celebrate that they continue living and loving children of God in His Kingdom where they await the ultimate arrival of all whom they left behind.
In that “light of love” we still can celebrate and give thanks even under a shadow of sorrow. The editorial cartoon of Dec. 26 said it so well. In a picture of the holy family at Jesus birth, the caption read of Jesus: “The one Christmas light that never burns out.” Thanks be to God.
For those of you who pray, I offer this post Christ-mass prayer that we pray every year during the days following the Feast of the Nativity:
“We thank thee, Father, for our happy Christ-mass; for the presents we received, the fun and joy we shared; the meals, the games, the loving talk. We thank thee for the peace and good will that seemed real throughout the day. Assist us to carry this feeling of peace and fellowship into all the ordinary days that follow.”
“But most especially bless all who have been unhappy at Christ-mass time: those to whom grief and sorrow came, or suffering sickness, and who remember in longing happier times. Bless all who were forgotten; cheer and comfort them in their loneliness. And throughout the coming year help us to share our faith and hope in Jesus with others, as He would have us do; and help us love as He loves. These things we ask in His most holy name. AMEN.”
My family and I hope that each of you lived a most blessed and enlivening Feast of the Nativity.
This will be my last offering for the year. I’m planning to take a short respite from writing through the month of January. My family and I will be relocating to a new home in McPherson. With both my beloved wife and me in our late 70’s moving is a major effort. Next month we both plan to concentrate fully on that move. I hope that in February I’ll again be welcomed as part of the Sentinel.
Thank you for your ongoing kindness and repeated expression of support in 2012. All of you are deeply appreciated. Have a great 2013 and hopefully next December we can celebrate a glorious white Christ-mass in spirit and in truth.
Fr. Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal priest living in McPherson.