by Dee Lorraine
“O Holy Night” has been my favorite Christmas carol for as long as I can remember. The lyrics and the music drew me in and told me why I celebrate Christmas. As a teenager in the late 1960s in Brooklyn, New York, I had in my mind that I couldn’t start my Christmas shopping until I heard “O Holy Night” on the radio. I considered it my signal from God that it was the official start of the season.
In the early 1970s, I was in college and started dating the man who would become my first husband. He invited me to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at an Episcopal church in Harlem that he, his aunt, and grandmother attended. I agreed to go.
I grew up in the Baptist church tradition, and incense was not part of my worship experience. I had an aisle seat, and when the acolyte swung the thurible in my direction, I tried hard to stifle my cough.
Incense aside, when the organist played and choir sang “O Holy Night,” I knew I had a new Christmas tradition.
Year after year, I stuck to my childhood habit of waiting for a random playing of “O Holy Night” to start my personal Christmas season. My boyfriend and I continued attending Christmas Eve Midnight Mass services.
In January 1979, we married and moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that summer. We joined a small Episcopal church led by a young priest. When the Midnight Mass choir sang “O Holy Night,” it was as majestic and meaningful to me as when I heard it in New York.
More than a decade later, my husband and I lived in Georgia and were members of a small Episcopal church in Decatur, an Atlanta suburb. (I like small churches.)
We had a young son, and we were going through a divorce. It had been a painful and challenging year for me, personally and professionally.
My soon-to-be ex-husband and our son had gone to New York for Christmas. I was almost broke financially, exhausted emotionally, struggling as a small business owner, and about to start the new year as a single parent.
I had not heard “O Holy Night” anywhere. It was Christmas Eve afternoon, and I was alone.
A friend who was a member of the church choir called. She knew what I had been going through and asked if I planned to attend the Midnight Mass.
“I don’t know. I’m just not feeling like Christmas. And I’ve never attended alone.”
“That’s all the more reason to go. I hope to see you there.”
I decided to shake off my sadness and attend the service.
As the acolyte came by my aisle seat, I relished the aroma of incense.
The organ sounded majestic, the choir sounded angelic, and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It was almost midnight.
When the organist began playing the introduction of “O Holy Night,” the soloist stood, looked in my direction, and started singing. The soloist was my friend.
My heart swelled, and my eyes filled with tears. God was letting me know everything was all right.
It was then, it is now, and it will be. Because Jesus, our dear Savior, was born on that holy night over 2,000 years ago. And He lives.
Dee Lorraine writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and is drafting her first novel. Her work appears in Agape Review, Friday Flash Fiction, Midwest Book Review, The Birdseed, and 101 Words. Dee’s YouTube channel “Superfast Stories” features her videos of writers’ 100-word stories; “Provoke Unto Love” promotes a Christ-centered permanent solution to homelessness in the USA.