God is With Us
by Beth Coulton
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It was December 23rd, and I was late for work. Usually I’m on time, but with it being so close to Christmas there was a lot to accomplish around the house, taking my attention away from the clock.
My drive to work is just seconds over one minute. This has its pros and its cons. Pro: I can walk if I need to. Con: This micro-commute doesn’t afford me any time to think, pray or regroup before walking in the door to the elementary school where I am the librarian assistant, leaving me in mind-at-home mode still when that school door first swings open.
Today was no different. Having been through many varied, unusual and “firsts” when it comes to stress the past few weeks, walking up the path to the school I thought, “I feel rather empty right now, and it’s Christmas! This shouldn’t be. What‘s wrong?” When I questioned my brain and heart a little further to see if I could find out the answer, I realized that this is the first Christmas in a very long time that I’ve worked in a secular setting where the holiday is watered down, to put it generously. The word “Christmas” is changed to “holiday” in most every context, and equal weight is given to any celebration of any faith whose occurrence happens to pass over or near December 25th.
As sobering as those thoughts were, I knew instantly I’d hit on something. It gave me insight as to why I was feeling rather disconnected; I had been used to being fed Christianity and Jesus almost daily during the Christmas season when I was working in a church setting; now along with a barely-mentioned Christmas, my days were filled with Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and a Mexican holiday called Los Posados. I’d never even heard of Los Posados. My heart was heavy that God wasn’t well represented in what was His time of year.
I walked down the hallway to the library and found it dark. That was highly unusual- the student teacher is always there long before the librarian and I are. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t arrived to see the library dark ever since he’d starting doing his internship there. This was indeed a rare occurrence.
In the seconds it took me to turn the doorknob, I heard it. I could hardly believe it. It was God, over the intercom. Singing. Okay, well maybe it wasn’t God, but it was Josh Groban, and he was singing about God. The pre-children-arrival music was being piped throughout the entire school, and I realized it was the final chorus to O Holy Night.
I quickly slipped into the library and closed the door behind me. I didn’t want to hit the lights but instead stood there to hear the angelic voice sing loud and clear, “Christ is the Lord, O praise His name forever!!” My heart soared with the raw truth that it had been so hungry to hear, and I soaked in the words that were coming from above - literally - through the speaker in the ceiling. I moved closer and closer until I was directly under the music, and just stood stock still and listened to the rest of the song.
The wonderful scenario I found myself in was like a players’ guess in the popular board game Clue…Me, in the library, with the intercom. The truth of the song - “Oh night divine” - just wrapped round about me, and I felt God telling me that no matter what‘s happening, no matter where I am, and no matter how little is said about Him, He is still present in the world and with me always.
The song ended, and the speaker in the ceiling tile was silent. The library, save me, was still empty. Still dark, still no staff coming in the door. In the quiet that followed, I realized that that had been the last song of the morning, and if I hadn’t been late, I might have been caught up in the busy-ness of work and missed its impact all together. I wiped the couple of tears from my eyes and went about what I had to do, this time with a lighter heart.
I saw the student teacher in the hallway a short time later, and asked him if he was ok because I’d never known him to be late. “Oh yeah, “ he replied. “I had just forgotten something at home this morning on my way in and had to turn around and go back.” What a shame, I thought, smiling to myself. What a shame.
God is alive and well this Christmas and all the year, no matter who or where you are. Enjoy that fact and have a merry Christmas, everyone. I know I will.
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Lovely story! I think your insight was right on. I know it's hard to think past the other things that Christmas is in America now, but this story reminds me that He is still here and alive in us every day of the year!