An old woman, right in front of me. She’s sitting, I’m standing. That’s because I came just two minutes before it started. Some people are standing, but not many. In fact, our church has never
been this empty on Christmas night.
The old woman – she’s kneeling, supporting her elbows with the wooden bench and clutching her hands tightly to her face. She probably sat right there on Christmas night fifty years ago. But in ten years she’ll be gone. And nobody will be here to replace her.
She’s turning around and I want to know what she is thinking. She’s glancing at a spot where people stand on Christmas night when they don’t have a place to sit down. Usually. She’s looking for something. I don’t know what she is looking for; the place is empty. She looks like she can bake the best Christmas cookies ever. I wouldn’t mind having her as a grandmother.
Looking around I realize that I don’t know the people and it makes me sad. I’ve had 19 years to become a part of this town and I didn’t. The church is where people meet. I’ve not been here since Easter 2007. It’s a goddamn little town; I should know almost everybody. There’s the waiter and that is my old craft teacher with his wife. And I know other people, too. But that man that sits close to the pillar and those people next to him – they might as well be from Vanuatu, I’ve never seen them.
It’s a little town and I live in a bigger world. I’m connected to people in the USA, in China, in Russia, in Poland, in Finland, in Jordan, in many more countries, in the whole world. Not so much to that old woman and to the other folks in my town. I’ve lost my roots, and I’ve lost something else.
We’re all losing our religion. I’m losing my religion, too. The minister talks about something. In the past I fell asleep as soon as he started his sermon. I’m falling asleep tonight.
The lights go out. It was about ten years ago, when this was the moment that was filled with something heavy. There was a very special, thick atmosphere about it when after more than two hours of celebrating Christmas we started singing “Stille Nacht”. I think about the beautiful words and I remember that this Austrian song is famous all over the world. Tonight, when the lights go off after less than an hour, there’s little of this atmosphere left.
People say “Frohe Weihnachten”, but what they mean is “hi”. I think they do. For the most part. For the most part, I’m losing my religion.