The youngest children wont know the difference today, as early this morning, from New York to Texas, from Raleigh to San Francisco, they run for the Christmas tree to dive in among the brightly colored packages to see what Santa brought. Even when, around the dinner table, they hear the prayers of gratitude for blessings bestowed, they still will have no awareness of what makes this Christmas different. But it is different, and theres no sense pretending it isnt.
Yes, parents and grandparents and friends must carry on. Children deserve to have their Christmas, to experience that unbridled joy that comes but once a year. Their smiles and their laughter will be heard from the highest hilltop mansions and from homeless shelters. For the Spirit, the true spirit, travels everywhere.
But for parents, all parents, thoughts and prayers will turn to Newtown, Conn., and a heartbreaking holiday for families who are without their children on this day that celebrates the birth of a child who was the hope of the world.
The profound lesson in that birth, and the hope and faith and sacrifice that followed it for those in the Christian faith, will keep us going today, we hope. It must. And in the faces of those precious children round the tree is not just the reflection of a fleeting happiness at gifts, be they grand or modest. In those faces is the light that leads us through the darkest of times, the light that shows us the way to the future, the light of faith and hope.
It is the reason we sing of Joy to the World, when there doesnt seem to be much joy, and why we Hark the Herald Angels when at times they seem to have forgotten us. Because we know there will be joy, and the angels will perch on our shoulders again.
Its important as well to help and remember those who will, we hope, dine this day at a soup kitchen, or enjoy the generosity of strangers. Good Christmas, pilgrims, and may there be some light in your lives this year.
The same goes to the men and women in uniform. We say this every year, and we mean it every year: Thank you for what you do, for enduring another holiday away from home, away from your kids, for carrying on yourselves as you get the report on all the presents over the phone or on computers. We hope the angels are there.
And the same, again, to all those who arent home today, to the police officers and the firefighters and the doctors and the nurses and others for whom duty calls without deference to a circle on the calendar.
Today we also must not forget those often forgotten, the elderly folks who have outlived their friends and are far from families and feeling on this day a sense of loneliness deeper than that they feel all too often. May they get a call or a visit today. May their gift be companionship.
And so we join the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School in thought, thought about all their children were and could have been, all the joy they brought and all the joy that has been denied. Carry on they must, somehow. They will, knowing that their children sleep in heavenly peace.