For reviving the spirit, there is little in life that can rival standing among a thousand people singing “Adeste Fidelis” in church on Christmas morning. And while I don’t presume to know the minds of my fellow worshipers, I feel safe in saying there was no one in church that morning whose spirit was more in need of reviving than my own, for few professions can rival mine for glimpses into the darkness that sometimes dwells in the souls of men. In the days and indeed the very hours leading up to Christmas, I waded through the anguished aftermaths of two murders, two suicides, an attempted suicide, and a variety of other lesser tragedies, the accumulated sadness of which left me reeling and in doubt as to the wisdom in my choice of careers.
To get one’s intellectual arms around the meaning of that song and the event it commemorates is a challenge even under the best of circumstances, but as I dressed for church Christmas morning I couldn’t rid my mind’s eye of those haunting images: the faces of people who, only moments before I came upon them, were calmly going about their lives unaware of the horror about to befall them, or, as with the suicides, were all too aware of it. I was tempted to go back to bed. Christmas, it seemed to me in that moment, was for the birds.
There have been many such moments in my years as a policeman, but even in the bleakest of them I’ve tried to remember that it has been the blessed combination of faith, family, and friends that has sustained me. So, albeit reluctantly, off to church I went.