December 23, 2013

Mark Millican: Best gifts have already arrived

It wasn’t a midnight clear, but it did happen suddenly.

First, some backdrop. “O Holy Night” was never my favorite Christmas song until 12 or 14 years ago. I heard Aaron Neville sing it with the Boston Pops Orchestra during a TV special and it became one of those “moments in time,” I guess you could say, when a singer became more than a performer and served as a messenger.

It appeared I had never listened to the words until that moment.

Then a couple of Friday nights ago Teresa and I attended the Atlanta Pops Orchestra Christmas performance in Ellijay. I’ve never understood why some grown men, primarily Italians I gather, weep when certain opera music is sung. But when that tenor guy with his female duet partner launched into “O Holy Night” in the Ellijay Elementary auditorium, my eyes filled with water and I felt salty liquid rolling down my cheeks.

I’m not saying I was crying, mind you, but it hit me hard as I pondered the words again with eyes closed:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices, oh night divine ... when Christ was born.”

I turned to Teresa as the last note died and said, “Well, the Lord can just come get me now — I’m ready to go.”

It was that good.

In recent years, Christmas Day has actually seemed anticlimactic to me. Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy getting to see people get together and open gifts, and I am aware many families — like the family I married into — do this the day before. But the weeks and then just days and finally hours before Christmas Eve arrives are what perk me up and really get me into the Christmas spirit.

And it’s not the shopping or decorations or the concerts or the holiday parties and getting to see family, although those are certainly factors. It’s the realization anew that a couple of millennia ago God decided it was time to put his great plan into motion and came to Earth in the form of a man, in a very spectacular way.

I look forward to hearing Luke 2 read among our family this year as we gather at Christmas Eve, and am thankful it usually falls upon a younger member to do it. It’s gratifying to see this tradition being carried on, while at the same time I’ll think about my late father doing it after he came to Christ at age 71.

In reality, Teresa and I feel we’ve already received the best gifts we could ever hope for this year, new grandsons Samuel and Wyatt.

The year of our Lord 2014 is on the horizon. What shall we do then? Maybe a Christmas song I heard on the radio might suffice: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

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