And Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger…. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them… – Luke 2.7-9 (NRSV)
We are almost to that point where the compulsive crush of Christmas obligation will give way to the heart-rending miracle of the Holy Nativity. That’s a good thing. For if our frantic rushing to and fro, checking items off our list, and recalling what we almost forgot didn’t end soon, Christmas would be a burden requiring relief instead of celebration and uplift.
Shadows deeply shroud this Christmas, what with a far-too-soon loss of Eric Bergwall and the jarring shock of Marc Thorne dying. Our charge in such a darkness is to be as light. But how? When the night is so black it threatens all that we hold sacred and dear, we seek the glory of God, to shine around us. We must hear the songs and voices of angels. Their core message culminates in the last reading of the last service on Christmas Eve.
No matter how bleak the darkness, no matter the despair the darkest night evokes, John insists, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Nor will it. We must hold on that promise this year. We must cleave to it. We must make the shift from a world of human prose, trying to explain why it is so. We must surrender to another realm of charmed poetry where the mood of the message is as gracious as the message.
Tonight, O God, the soles of your feet have touched the earth.
Today, the back street, the forgotten place, have been lit up with significance.
Today, the households of earth welcome the King of Heaven.
For you have come among us, you are one of us.
So may our songs rise to surround your throne
as our knees bend to salute your cradle.
-From the Church of Scotland
And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers, tying strings.
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.
No love that in a family dwells,
No caroling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare—
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.