The night grows dark and heavy with expectation. Even the stars appear to be hanging in a velvet sky, sparkling jewels that twinkle with delight. People everywhere wait and remember. Anticipation increases with each passing moment as midnight approaches. It almost seems as if everything has stopped for a moment. The breathless eagerness is palpable.
In many cases, the cessation is incredibly real. Traditionally, ceasefire commands are given in countries where war, hot and cold, is in progress. Non-Christian peoples render their respect to the beliefs of Christians. They reverence remembrance of the coming of the Lord Jesus. All the world gathers its deepest feelings and awaits birth.
New life brings with it renewed vigor and radical hope. But this birth is most significant, even for doubters. It is the one unique nativity that effects the transformation and transfiguration of all creation. It is the birth which reaches back into time and stretches forward into eternity with arms of love—love expressed in life, truth, mercy, and justice.
In the cold of a snow-laden North, carolers rub their mittened hands together and stamp their feet to warm chilled bodies. Readied, they lift one last song into the night air. Their “glorias” sound a welcome for the Babe who lives forever as Savior. In the warmth of the South, music whispers through bending pines. Luminarias light a path to prayerful presence. Outdoor manger scenes do not contain statues. Instead, they are filled with men, women, children, and animals enacting a living Christmas story.
Believers and nonbelievers alike are struck by the Person and the event. Somehow, we both want and need this to be a midnight experience. It must happen at a time when deep quiet pervades our dark night. Walking in the hush of blackness, we are more able, more empowered, to feel the piercing potency of God’s great light.
Birth is happening in our midst. Love reaches its apex. Love and life cry out in unison with the infant’s entrance into a world we have created. Cries of “Merry Christmas” fill the air with unmatched joy. Life and love are wed and we are born of the union. There is no Scrooge who can destroy our joy with a dismaying “Bah! Humbug!”
Everyone is touched by the birth of the Savior. All feel the upsurge of hope. All sense the removal of fear. Those who are burdened, heavily weighted with anxious care, know the smashing of the yoke that has held them down. They see the pole of worry and isolation breaking into splinters. They watch the rod of oppression being taken away. Each of us, personally and individually as well as communally, can sense the coming of the Savior into our hearts. Wondrously, our experience is as unique and varied as we are.
There is no special spot, time, or sacrifice demanded for divine entry. There is only an accepting spirit, a willing heart. We are touched in the busyness of our everyday living. We are touched, like the shepherds depicted in the Christmas story, “shepherds in the locality, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flocks” (Luke 2:8). We feel the touch of divinity as we go about our daily tasks and duties, the chores of our vocation.
We are touched by the Person who hurts with the poor, the oppressed, the weary, all burdened outcasts of society. We are touched by a message that promises to remove the terrors of night, replacing them with the good news of daylight. We hear hope in the midst of hopelessness. We find peace in the fragmentation of war.
Most especially, we are touched by the marvel that neither Person nor event are constrained by time and place. They are not restricted to the warmth of past memories, nor by the jingling of bells and superficial merriment. The birth of the Lord Jesus is a deeper and more penetrating reality. It is an experience more than an event. The birth of Jesus is yesterday, today, and tomorrow—a tomorrow that is forever and for all.
As was said by an angel to shepherds long ago, so we are told today: “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people. This day . . . a savior has been born to you, the Messiah and the Lord. Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes” (Luke 2:1–12).
This day our God has chosen to become one of us. Touching God and being touched by God is our good news! It is the reason we live fearlessly. Touched, saved, made whole and holy by our God Immanuel, we are empowered to share with everyone the evangelistic message of possibility in the face of impossibility. Christ, the Child of Promise, pierces dire reality with the radiance of dreams. Mangers, not palaces or institutions, become the significant havens of birth. Poverty, not riches, brings empowerment. Service, not manipulation, is our strength. We are blessed with the gracious humility of a God who loves us endlessly. This blessing deepens and grows. Overwhelmingly generous love enters our life as a small baby, God-With-Us. So loved, we now can live in paradox and grow into our godliness.
Wonder-Counselors, God-Heroes, Princes and Princesses of Peace, our rule over the earth is to be gently forgiving, mercifully just, and justly merciful. Potent with the zeal of God, our cry explodes in glorious whole-heartedness, “Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom God’s favor rests.” This birth, this divinity enfleshed in our humanity, is a victorious presence, as noted by Thomas Merton in his poem “The Victory”:
. . . make ready for the Face that speaks like lightning,
Uttering the name of your exultation
Deep in the vitals of your soul.
Make ready for the Christ
Whose smile, like lightning,
Sets free the song of everlasting glory
That now sleeps in your paper flesh, like dynamite.
Fran Salone-Pelletier holds a master’s degree in theology. She is the author of a trilogy of scriptural meditations, Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives, as well as a religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. She can be reached at email@example.com.