My mother had a Danish expression for the feeling that surrounds us on Christmas Eve but for the life of me I couldn’t remember how to spell the word, until my cousin from Denmark sent me the correct spelling. “Hyggeaften” – I asked my mother once what the word meant but she just said, “English words can’t describe it adequately.” “Aften” means evening or night, but “Hygge” means: peaceful, calm, serene, homey, silent, glowing, harmonious, joyful, affable, warm, genial, sedate, placid, expectant, delightful, still, tranquil…well, I guess Mom was right…you can’t pinpoint the words to adequately describe this danish word or the feelings “hygge” evokes.
Christmas Eve. “Hyggeaften”…the pictures from my childhood comfort me like a soft warm blanket. Picture a warm, crackling fire in the fire place. The soft glow of candlelight, the twinkling of lights on the Christmas tree. The warmth of a cup of cocoa. My cat, softly purring, curled up on my lap. Subdued sounds of Christmas carols playing in the background. My mother knitting beside me, my father smoking his pipe and silently watching the fire dance in the hearth. The feeling of safety and belonging and love. It’s Christmas Eve.
It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, Christmas Eve for me will always be “Hyggeaften”. It’s an emotion, more than a word. It is peace on earth, good will to all men and it’s origin began in Bethlehem when baby Jesus was born. It is silent night.
People then had no idea what was about to happen on that silent night. The sound of a baby’s first cry would be no more astonishing to hear than a cow lowing or the mewling of a lamb, but the angels in heaven certainly knew the significance of that baby’s arrival because they immediately appeared in the night sky and sang, to the shock and wonderment of their shepherd audience, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
This special event had been planned from the beginning of time, and the angels were finally able to proclaim that the Christ Child was born! Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! Immanuel, God with us!
Imagine the joy from heaven!
At last, heaven’s darling sent to dwell amongst us. Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room…let heaven and nature sing!
Heaven’s excitement, our delight!
But on a hill far away, there is a cross silhouetted against the night sky. The angels know it’s part of God’s plan, but still they sing, not in spite of it but because of it.
Come to Bethlehem and see, Christ Whose birth the angels sing; Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King. Gloria, in excelsis Deo!