Christmas Eve 2016…
Our family is home together this Christmas… and that is a gift.
We hosted many dear friends for a wonderful party last night and it too was a gift.
Tomorrow, Christmas Day, we will take part in the tradition of giving and receiving gifts.
These are good days for our family.
This year, as a part of the season’s festivities, our little tribe attended a Christmas Eve event and sang some familiar and obligatory Christmas songs of all such services. However, we ended by singing ‘O Holy Night’; repeating the 1st verse a cappella. And the power of music moved me. It was beautiful.
My soul was stirred with what I can only describe as wonder beyond wonder.
For years I understood this holiday only as the celebration of that event where God became one of us. And if that were all, this would be a remarkable gift. But the truth of this celebration is far deeper than I had previously considered. For God didn’t simply become one of us; he became one with us. And by ‘us’ I mean everyone. Every person ever conceived on this planet.
He stepped into all the mess, all the ugliness, all the joy and all the beauty of the human condition. He has become one with every part of every one of us. He has united himself to us forever. This is beyond great. This is beyond any superlative we can use. Words cannot express the depth and width and height of such love… they just can’t.
But tonight when we sang together we spoke words that touch the heavens; words that begin, ever so faintly, to brush upon this wonder of wonders.
“O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”
Ponder with me for a moment a gift that is so beautiful, so profound, and so utterly astounding that it staggers the collective imagination of humanity…
All of human kind has been stumbling around in a darkness that is so pervasive it seems to be (almost) inextricably woven into our lives. And while we may not be consciously aware of the utter depth of our darkness and the futility it manifests in our lives, we simultaneously pine for what we do not know. We yearn with an unquenchable thirst for something better; not just something ‘out there better’, but we long for ourselves to actually be better.
Yet, on that most holy and beautiful of nights, a gift was given beyond our comprehension; a monumental declaration of the worth of you, me, and every person since the beginning of time was shouted across the furthest reaches of the galaxies.
The divine community we call God descended to meet us face to face. And without ever ceasing to be who he is, the eternal Son – one with the eternal Father, He becomes bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
He stooped to us as a newborn infant as helpless against fragile existence as every one of us.
He was laid into a feed box and wrapped in modest cloth by the hands of a peasant, teenage girl who consented to bear in her frail body the One who knit that very body together.
The One who is the Word that spoke all things into being, now lies crying – yet unable to speak.
Gasping for breath of air that He created he has now become a creature subject to necessity, subject to the very laws He designed to order the universe, subject to the evil that those who bear his image now do. Gravity. Hunger. Breathe. Move. Thirst. Decay. Betrayal. Death.
Born into poverty and homelessness, oblivious to the terror that seeks him, he will soon be marginalized as a fleeing immigrant seeking refuge from political tyranny.
Other than his teenage parents and some simple farm animals gathering in a humble stable, there is no one to welcome this child into our midst.
But beyond our planet the entire universe gazes in stunned silence, astonished by Love.
I am astounded by the purity of such humility. I am silent before such unstoppable Love. I am undone.
This is the Incarnation.
In the coming of this One, life as we know it is forever changed. Turned right side up, as it were; we witness the staggering reality that our Creator has crossed all worlds to fulfill the day when He would whisper love in our hearts and worth into our souls.
This is that day… O Holy Night indeed.