It is warm, the lights low. Strings of lights curl unevenly around four trees, which stand across the altar, sans ornaments.
We are are holding chinsy, battery powered candles, not the real thing. That would be way too dangerous.
The band plays along, without a bass or acoustic guitar.
For all the compromises on authenticity, there is peace. For just a moment, we all forget about the family drama, the economic uncertainties and our health woes as we sing Silent Night.
A solo voice sings out the lyrics in German. Her voice isn’t all that stunning, but there is a clarity to it. I sing along to the few phrases I remember from high school choir.
I glance at the two empty seats in front of us, my mom’s coat and my scarf still draped over them, saving them even though we knew didn’t need to. My heart aches. Their consent that they would come had been half hearted. Somehow I had let myself hold onto the shred of possibility that they would.
I tell myself it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.
I focus on the light flickering between my hand. Even though it is dull, it still pushes back the dimness. It still serves as a little ray of hope that someday things will change.
The congregation joins once more in the final verse. All is calm, all is bright, they sing. In this moment, I think, that is true.