The older I get the more appreciation I have for the hymns of Christmas. What Child is This, for example, paints a beautiful parallel between choirs of angels raising "songs on high" while, at the same time, Mary sings a lullaby to an infant. I love the contrast in that. It's poetic. It's peaceful.
This year, though, I've been thinking about the first verse in O, Holy Night over and over again. I think in the midst of the opportunity for showing off and belting that song usually provides, I've never really paused to consider what the message of that song actually is. Look at the first verse again:
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.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
It's the last four lines of the song that hit me the hardest this year. Last year I felt was one of tremendous blessings from the Lord. I was given wonderful opportunities, new friends, and some wonderful, merciful experiences that were so perfect that I felt likely to burst out of my own skin. Life was so good that my family finally asked me to stop talking about the parts of it I was so happy about because it was getting on their nerves.
This year has been different. I've been battling challenges professionally and personally that have left me feeling trapped inside my own weakness. I've spent much of the year in great debate over much of what I hold most dear. I've battled against the bonds of depression harder and longer than I've ever done in my life. I've been holding on by the tips of my fingers, fighting to keep myself afloat.
It's hard to live the gospel. It is hard for me to be single in a church that doesn't quite know what to do with me all the time. It's hard for me to watch my friends go to the temple when I can't yet because of circumstances out of my control. It's hard for me to try hard to fight against the foibles of the natural man monster in me. But a friend reminded me recently that I am imperfect but not inadequate. I am full of sin and error, but because of the birth of my Savior, my weary soul has worth and great cause to rejoice. This song, then, speaks to me not just of the hope of the night the Savior was born, but the hope of a new year, the hope of Christmas, the hope of the gospel in my life.