There is another carol you may be familiar with. Sing with me if you are familiar. It begins, “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” The composer to this beautiful hymn was Adolphe Adam, who incidentally also composed music for some of the most famous romantic era ballets, like Giselle and Le Corsaire. The lyrics we know so well were written by John Sullivan Dwight, who must have been God-inspired to string those poetic words together: “and the soul felt its worth.” On this Eve of Christmas, we are all called to feel our souls’ worth. The "soul feels its worth" when we remember our hearts are made to put the needs of others before our own comfort. In other words, we remember our hearts were made to love, to know our worth resonates with the worth inherent in all living beings.
I see the love this season in parents going even more crazy than usual to provide a beautiful experience for their children. I see souls feeling their worth by insisting on patience with a difficult family member, reuniting with friends, giving a cup of warm coffee to the worker standing outside in the cold. I see souls feeling their worth in gentleness amidst the rush, consideration amidst the consumerism.
I also am sad by some things I see. I see continued exploitation of the poor and vulnerable. I hear fear masked as self-righteous condemnation. I witness the continued turning away of the the stranger. I look at myself and see how easy it is for any of us to disregard the consequences of everyday actions on those who are already hurting. My soul hurts with how often the victim is blamed, how often I have not lived into the loving wholeness and rightness of relationship into which God invites me. And still, here is another miracle of this season - even being sad shows our souls’ feeling their worth.
If along the way, in the hustle and bustle, we were not nice to someone - we may feel remorse, and even that is our souls feeling their worth, realizing we were made by God for more kindness. If we’re sad and miss someone or feel lonely - that’s our souls feeling their worth, embracing that God made us to love even when it feels absent or hurts. And when we go out of our way to be kind, to be courageously compassionate - that’s our souls feeling their worth, moving towards God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. When we celebrate who is with us - that’s our souls feeling their worth, living the joy into which God always invites us.
The candles of love and Christ’s birth coincide this year. To me, it highlights the song of love we are all worthy to join in this time when Christ was born. God knows our souls’ worth, knows what we vulnerable human beings are capable of. We love not just in preparation of Christ’s birth, but in response to it, too. The coinciding candles represent God's promise of hope to us that the smallest, most flickering flame of love is enough to forge seemingly impossible peace and justice, inspire joy in the midst of struggle, topple empires, and conquer death. The flame of God’s love came into our world as a little baby to remind us how much we are capable of loving, and are loved - and the soul felt its worth.
Please join me in prayer:
Vulnerable God, you came to us weak and dispossessed, a reminder that holiness inhabits the lowly. You came to us as we come into this world, babes utterly dependent on the love of those around us. You show us our worthiness through your love, and the inherent worth of all beings you connect us to in relationship. Bless each of us this night, that we may carry the knowledge of your love into the rest of these dark winter nights. Bless each of us this night, that we may feel our full worth in your tender embrace, and embrace tenderly and fully those souls around us. Amen.
Photo by Darren Coleshill on Unsplash