Thought for the week - Christmas
Deep in the night, as it was dark and the wolves were out, these shepherds saw a thing happening which we still come out during the night to hear, two thousand years later. Those who were on duty to keep watch saw it first, and then woke up the others from their deep sleep. These shepherds would have seen a star in the night sky behaving in a fashion which was entirely unexpected actually a little terrifying, and maybe they thought, because they were Shepherds, nobody would ever believe them. The normal constellations were eclipsed by a new star, the heavens shimmered, and the earth glowed. As they gathered together around their small fires the heavens were set ablaze and burned with brilliance unknown. Their wonder turned to fear as they sensed the magnitude of that night, as they sensed the world they knew would never be the same. That is why we are here tonight, because we sense the world changed that night and we want to hear of it again, to search for the truth behind the other – pleasant but of no consequence – trappings of this season.
The met the divine with fear – the heavens were off their course and the stars were disjointed, adrift from their natural movement, and the fear that the Mother of God felt when the angel Gabriel came to her to announce the plan of salvation that was to begin with her, in her, now began to be felt by all humankind, and before long, John the Baptist will be announcing the beginning of His ministry.
They went off at once, and beheld such a sight that would revolt more middle class hearts – an unmarried couple in a cow shed giving birth to a baby of uncertain (at least to one of them) parentage. Maybe that’s why the Shepherds went first, because they saw past the squalor and the animals with which they were surrounded all the days of the lives and saw the beauty, beheld the wonder and heard the angels saying ‘fear not’ – words spoken maybe more to us than them. The Word is born in the middle of deep night and the earth and stars themselves cannot contain their rapture, and the angels looked on in wonder that such a thing could happen in such a way. The word is born into our frail humanity.
This is the night when the Word is heralded to the earth below and heaven and earth are joined. This is the night when we all go down to the animal shed and listen to the Shepherds, this is the night where we go to the place where Christ is found.
Here at the edge of time, where one day bids farewell and gives way to the promise of a new day, where heaven meets earth, do we sense the new possibility. It is a possibility that demands of us a journey. It demands of each one of us the leaving behind our places of safety and journeying to Bethlehem, to the manger. It is hardly a place of prestige or power or privilege, but rather we journey to a place of weakness, of lowliness and want. Here we pray that we may be found as worthy as the Shepherds and gaze on our salvation.
Wha this night tells us is that this is no ordinary day. This day escaped the spatial limitation of time and space itself and is a foretaste of Heaven for those who this night come and seek for it. This day has lasted over two thousand years and still it draws us into itself, covering us in the hope of the night and expecting that we will bear witness in the day, for Christmas, this day, is always today, always being now, it’s never yesterday and it will only end when tomorrow comes and Christ returns upon its wings. Today salvation has come, hodie Christus natus est, Christ is born this day.
Rightly Christmas knows no limit, Christmas knows no day, no night. Christmas knows no yesterday, the salvation promised us is ours – not to keep, but to surrender to anyone who wishes to find it, the love of God commands it, the word spoken this day is made flesh and that word is carried loud and clear into our hearts, to love God and love one another. We are saved by love, we are set free by love, free from decay, from death itself, we, like the shepherds, must trust the word, must not allow the morning light to take away this hope, for one day there will be no morning, there will always be now. Welcome the logos, the word made flesh, into your hearts, give birth to love, in our world, in our time, and this day will never end. We must allow the Word of God to be born in us, born in our world, born in our times.
Now salvation has come, hodie Christus natus est, Christ is born this day.