Bring me a white horse for Christmas

We’ll ride him through the snow

All the way to Bethlehem

Two thousand years ago

 

I want to speak with the angel

Who said “Do not be afraid”

I want to kneel where the oxen knelt

Where the little child was laid

 

Hush now baby

One day you’re gonna ride

Hush now baby

Your white horse through the sky

 

No bridle will he be wearing

His unshod hoofs they will fly

Keep a watch out this Christmas

For that white horse in the sky

 Hush now baby

Let every angel sing

Hush now baby

One day we’ll ride again

 from “White Horse” by Over the Rhine

 

I have been singing this song to myself for days, a little lilting accompaniment as I washed my hands until they cracked, dodged sideways to avoid being coughed on, and kept lists of who got what medicine when. We have three children with colds this Christmas—and poor B coughed our Christmas schedule into oblivion. The Christmas finery stayed on the little hangers in their closets, we didn’t go to the Christmas Eve service, and we cancelled plans to have dinner with dear friends afterwards. I had to give up my idea of taking the boys to Target to pick out little gifts for each other, and my project of whipping up special Christmas pajamas was likewise abandoned. After reviving a little to open presents, B spent the rest of the day on the couch, coughing pitifully and guarding his new Buzz Lightyear with his life. We had a nice, candlelit Christmas feast with my parents, but B was on the couch in the other room. There is merriness, but it’s not as merry as the Christmas I had planned. 

The little child in the manger, and the white rider in the sky: the two supreme symbols of change coming, of utter transformation, of a new order—of hope. My heart has been groping for hope this Christmas, and I have not quite caught it. I think of that little child, stirring and stretching and being poked by the straw, whose largely unnoticed coming was preceded by four hundred years of silence from God. Calamities came, and no prophets spoke. I wonder if the Jews still felt like God’s people, or if they thought that perhaps God has chosen new friends without telling them. I sympathize. The past two years of my life have seemed to echo with the silence of a God who, I sometimes feel, might as well have gone on vacation and left some ringer asleep at his desk. There has been good, I know–but there has also been a bewildering blankness in response to my prayers. It’s not four hundred years, but it feels long. 

I sing, “One day you’re gonna ride…Your white horse through the sky” and I wish it may be so. I wish for the strength to hope again—to believe that good will follow, and not just conclude that all my fears must come true. I would dearly love to speak with that angel. I have quite a few things I’d like to say. Don’t be afraid? You must be joking.

“Keep a watch out this Christmas/For that white horse in the sky,” I sing, with tears in my eyes, because I want that hope desperately, and I am afraid to look out the window and not find it.

What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him.

Frederick BuechnerListening to Your Life, p. 340

Merry Christmas–may all those watching for the white horse of hope this Christmas look up to see it coming.

 *pictures by my talented friend Misha

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