Noche de Paz

Noche de paz, noche de amor
Todo duerme en derredor
Entre los astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niño Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Oh, brilla la estrella de paz

“Midnight” mass begins at 10:30 PM at the local Episcopalian church, but the fact that it ends and midnight rather than starting at midnight doesn’t make it any less magical, though it was probably a degree or two warmer.

Somehow, Christmas Eve is more special when it’s cold out, when you can see your breath hovering in the starlit sky just before you enter the church. Then, the cold night air is replaced by the warmer air inside, laced with pine and holly, melted wax, wisps of smoke, and a trace of incense leftover from the earlier, family-friendly service.

The church wasn’t packed tonight, but it was nicely full, and while most people were dressed up, a few were not. Any other time, I’d not have cared, to be honest, but dressing up helps the night feel more special, enhances that sense of being out of time, and in time, all at once.

The thing about Christmas Eve mass is this: the music and the incense and the lit trees on the altar, and the pine and holly in the church mix together to form this unburstable bubble of delight and love in my heart – for this one hour (well, ninety minutes, really), I can put all my skepticism aside, and just get lost in the sound of 100 strangers singing “Silent Night,” a capella, in the dim light of wax candles.

For the three verses of that song, we were not anglo or hispanic or black, we were not men or women, we were not agnostic or Christian, or anything else, except just people.

And for me, that is the magic of the season.

If you celebrate it, I wish you a Merry Christmas. If you don’t, I hope your December holidays are or were as lovely as mine. And no matter what, I wish everyone a happy and successful, and peaceful, 2005.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.