O Holy Night.

 nightsky3.jpeg

babyjesusnanaellen.gifbabyjesusnanaellen.gifbabyjesusnanaellen.gifIt is Christmas Eve.  We’re planning a big dinner, complete with sparkling cider (which, to our family, says “celebration” like none other).  The kids are jumping around excitedly -promised one present this evening.  They probably won’t get much sleep tonight.  Everyone is so full of Christmas secrets they could burst.  The tree is decorated and sparkling with a million lights.  Grandma is coming on Wednesday.  We’re going to Avo and Avo’s for New Years.  There are gifts to be wrapped and “stockings to be hung by the chimney with care”.

In all this excitement and festivity, it’s easy to overlook the true meaning of the season.

But, on this, the night we celebrate, I envision the virgin Mary, sleeping one more cold and miserable night on the road to Bethlehem.  Her husband Joseph is exhausted from a long day and many rugged miles, but he struggles to make his betrothed comfortable.  She is very pregnant by now.  Under her rough clothes, her belly bulges.  The son of God.  Soon, He will be born…just how soon, even Mary does not know.  But she feels that it isn’t long.

Up above her, the night sky is black as ink, and the stars are gold-white jewels.  The air is so cold, but she tries not to shiver.  Joseph would be concerned, and he has already done the best he can.  She pulls her meager blankets closer to herself for warmth.

The angels lean closer.  The time is near.  Soon, heaven will burst into song.  Even they do not understand what God has planned.  But they know that Mary is carrying the Son of God.  Why such a humble family?  Why Mary, why Joseph?  Why Bethlehem?  They are filled, not with doubt, but with sheer wonder.  If angels are impatient, these are watching the seconds.  Their curiosity, excitement, restlessness, outdoes the most eager child.  Soon, the Savior will be born.

The devil shudders.  Elizabeth rocks her infant.  Anna prays.  The Wise Men look to the sky.  The shepherds watch their flocks in total oblivion, just as they did yesterday, and the day before, and just as they will do tomorrow.  Or so they think.  Herod paces.  Augustus Caesar falls asleep in the midst of his riches, deluded, believing himself the most soveriegn man in the world.  Are Peter and James and John born yet?  Are they little boys, sleeping in poor houses in Galilee?  One more night, Israel groans under the heavy and surpressive yoke of Rome.  Once again, the priests in the Temple of Jerusalem perform their ritualistic rites, working to attain the righteousness of God.  Another Gentile man or woman or child dies outside the saving grace of God…no hope for the dogs of the world, the unchosen people.  The scribes study the Law.  To misstep is to be damned, is their ever-torturous thought.  Another lamb is sacrificed.  Its innocent blood covers again the sin of a wretched human.  When will Messiah come?  This is the unspoken groan of Israel; of all who long to be saved.  When will the words of Isaiah be fulfilled?  When will come Emmanuel, God with us?  The world cries in pain and loneliness, singing the ancient, ageless dirge of a lost and dying people. 

For one more night.

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