We sang "Silent Night", but the noise inside my heart was deafening.

[vc_row fullwidth="false" attached="false" padding="0" visibility="" animation=""][vc_column border_color="" visibility="" width="1/1"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"]I remember his hands.  Rough and calloused; old with veins defined by years of hard work.  Strong enough to work the garden, but tender as well.  He would pick me up, hold me in his lap and read the funny papers.  His gruff, seasoned voice carried a rhythm and cadence that said everything was alright.  But these were old memories, long fixed in my mind.  This was something new.  His hands looked different on that Christmas Eve.  So different that I couldn't hear the song.  My lips were moving, notes were being sung, but my heart couldn't be further from "All is calm, all is bright".  The moment came to light my candle.  An hour of holding it, waiting for this moment,  twisting and bending  the little white circle thingy that caught the drippings.    I'm not sure who thought of the whole idea of a candlelight service, but they had to be thinking of middle school boys.  How else could you get an 11 year old to sit still on the night before Christmas?  The sheer joy of ripping into a multitude of presents the next morning could only be staved off by giving him fire… in church.   I was ready.  I could see the flame making its way down the pew.  Granddaddy would light mine and I would pass it on.

Then I saw it.  His hands were trembling.  So much so that I had to keep moving my candle to stay with the flame long enough for it to ignite.   After trying a few times, a small glow of light finally flickered to life.  I carefully passed the light to the person on my right.  The sanctuary was filled with the warmth and glow of candlelight.  Our voices soared and filled every corner of the room.  A moment when instruments give way to people, where no accompaniment is needed.  Even the adolescent faith of an 11 year old could recognize the holiness of the moment, those sounds, that glory.  And yet I couldn't take my eyes off of his hands.

While tears streamed down many faces, hot wax was spilling past the drip catcher onto his hands.   What bothered me most was that he didn't seem to notice.  He had stopped noticing for quite some time.  Alzheimer's disease, not your usual 11 year old's topic of conversation, had become all too familiar at this point.  Well past forgetting the little things, he had no idea who was sitting next to him that night.  His candle, almost as if it knew the hurt and chaos, spilled tears from the flame.  The burning wax shaping a path around his hands, in stark contrast to the glow of candlelight and the beauty of "Silent Night" filling the air around me.  He couldn't feel it.  But I felt it.  He had no understanding.  I wished mine wasn't so clear.

That contrast would grow even sharper that next summer as my Grandfather would leave this earth, his body giving way to the darkness of the disease.

Silent Night, Holy Night.  Son of God, Love's pure light.

I didn't know much about God's redemptive plan as an 11 year old and I'm not sure I know a lot more as a 43 year old either.  What I did understand at that moment was that everything was not ok.  Everything was not bright or calm or peaceful.  A storm of chaos, hurt and heartache sat lodged between me and my Grandmother.  How can this be fixed?  Who can heal and mend these wounds?

Look at His hands.  Another set of hands, pierced through.  Feeling every moment of pain, every moment of loss.  The same hands that began on this earth, clutching Mary's finger.  The same hands that shaped and planed tables and chairs, while humbly submitted to his earthly father.  The same hands that touched the untouchable, healed those long forgotten.  Look to these hands.

See them pull back the fabric of eternity, slipping between the folds as a babe.  Watch them tremble and hold fast to the tree, carrying it all the way to our place of judgment.  Feel His pull on your heart, to follow even when the answers stay hidden.  Reach for the wounds, for they are the marks of His eternal love which cannot be quenched.

Christmas is the beginning.  We're in the middle.  I can't wait for the ending.  For then, His hands will raise... and you with them.[/vc_column_text][mk_icon_box2 icon_type="icon" icon_size="64" icon="mk-li-paper-plane" icon_color="#02b3ff" title="Follow Chad's Blog and never miss a post." title_size="24" title_weight="inherit" title_top_padding="10" title_bottom_padding="10" align="center"]

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