Christmas Eve

Our culture favors epic genres, superhero battles, fast-paced, attention grabbing displays of brutality and force. At Christmas, on the other hand, we seem to fall into sweet sentimentality, as we sing of the silence of the night, and a newborn who never cried. However, it’s likely that Jesus’ birth was neither gentle or grand, but rather exactly the same as what most human births are: messy and painful, and inconveniently complicated by the marital situation, family dynamics, travel, and limited resources of his parents and hosts. But then again, which of our own lives are not complicated? How many of us have, this December, found ourselves inwardly rebelling against the pressure to return to the hypothetical “happy golden days”? What or who makes you happy, anyway? Is it even the main purpose of our existence to achieve joy? I ask this of myself, amidst the school concerts, shopping, ubiquitous pine needles, shards of broken ornaments, and evergreen trees succumbing to the force of gravity – all the things that are meant to bring joy, but somehow turn into chores. 

Tonight is, in many ways, just a regular night. We may readily empathize with the familiar cast of the biblical characters – the thunderous prophets and brutal soldiers; the lowly shepherds and emperors; people at all turns of history, all at the mercy of the competing agents of power of their time – all pining for light in the darkness, mourning the loneliness of their own exile; contending for their own “place at the inn”. Likewise, today, the news cycle is disheartening, and in our own communities, many are ill, suffered losses, not spoken for months with their families, unemployed, transitioning to senior living, and questioning the existence and/or love of God through it all… And at the very least, how many of us present here will argue over dinner tonight? No, not all is “calm and bright”. Yet, all Christians through the ages have held the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord in the highest regard, and today, we still can’t help feeling that in some sense, this night is special. In one of my friend’s words, we long to “put this bubble of magic around Christmas and keep the world out”. Well… perhaps, we could try to keep the world out of Christmas, but I sure hope we can’t keep Christmas out of the world!

Traditionally, it is presumed to have been a very young woman, barely out of childhood herself, powerless and afraid, who, nonetheless, said “let it be” on behalf of the world. She did so not once at Jesus’ conception, but all along as she accompanied her son on his remarkable mission, until the time that she had to let him go. Can you imagine yourself in her place – where did she find such strength? Look at the many paintings of her, hear her voice through our songs. Can you imagine yourself to be the one to hold the baby in whose little body God has entered the world? Better yet, some time over the holidays, go ahead and find a real baby, take her into your arms, look into her eyes… and you will see God. Because every one of us continually brings God into the world, regardless of gender or literally having had babies. We all do so in our selfless giving and in gratefully receiving; the two themes of Christmas that never grow old or irrelevant. And conversely, God came to this earth not just once, but in every tiny and helpless body over the centuries past, and today. So much joy, incentive to give, peace that passes all understanding, and purpose in life may be found if we allow ourselves to see God in the eyes of all people around us, and foster the nativity of Christ to take place within the inns of our own hearts. Thanks be to God.

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