***Christmas Eve falls on Sunday this year. This makes for a kind of fullness that can boggle the mind. Advent Four in the morning and Christmas Eve services in the afternoon and evening. This is not a complaint but a fact and a privilege. This blog post was written on December 24, 2008. Truth be told, I might not have written anything much different on this Christmas Eve 2017.
It is Christmas Eve. Once again those who celebrate this holy day will fill the pews of churches large and small. Familiar carols will be sung, candles will be lit and we will sew together messages from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke and John to tell the story of the birth of the Christ Child. The beauty of the liturgical church year is that we would do this even without the commercial reminders that it is Christmas. Years before malls and coupons and the message to buy, buy, buy, this story has grounded Christians in a simple, yet profound telling of the birth of Jesus.
I have been thinking about this story and the many ways it can be read and heard. And truth be told, each of us will hear it in our own way, with this year’s hearing different than last year. We have each added life experiences that have changed us and shaped us into the people we are this year. Jan Richardson writes of the many ways we can tell the story: “We can tell is as the story of an unwed mother who dared to enter into partnership with God to bring forth new life; as a political story about the birth of a revolutionary; as a tale about a love that longed so much for us that it took flesh, formed in the dark woman of a woman show shared her body and blood to bring it forth. We can tell it as a story of darkness giving birth to light.” So many ways to tell an ancient and simple story. It depends on the lens of our life how we read it, how we hear it, how we enter into it.
2008 is coming to a close. It has been a year that has rattled us in many ways. Many of the safety nets we took for granted have unraveled. It has also been a year in which we have seen glimpses of great hope. Tonight as we gather to once again tell the story of Christmas, how will our experience of this year shape our hearing? As the young ones don their angel wings and shepherd costumes, will our spirits be filled with the surprise and awe of how God enters our world? As the Magi present their precious gifts, will we want to dig deep into our own gifts and share them with abandon? As Joseph looks lovingly at the young woman at his side, might we be filled with the trust and faith of those confronted by Mystery? And might each of us remember all that has been lovingly birthed in our lives this year and, like Mary, treasure all these things in our hearts?
Wherever you are when you hear this story, I invite you to enter into its telling fully. This year’s hearing will never come again so savor it. Let it roll around in your heart. After your candle is lighted and the first notes of Silent Night have been sung, look around and be held in the miracle of these ancient words that bind Christians together everywhere. And as the candles die out and the notes of carols fades into the night, then we can begin to live into how the story might transform us, for this year, for our time. This is what will keep the message alive.
Christmas blessings to you…………..
“When the song of angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the brothers,
to make music in the heart.”