On Christmas Eve, we watch the church fill with people. Eventually, every seat is taken. There are even people standing at the back. For at least one evening, we respond to God’s call. Reluctantly or joyfully, we come to celebrate and give thanks for the birth of Jesus. For a few moments, we are one in our desire for that joy symbolized by the Christmas story. Influenced in some way, no matter how small, by the life and work of a simple carpenter, two thousand years ago, we gather to sing and to pray and to find hope for our aching world.
The scarlet poinsettias speak of the pain and spilled blood of our faith story. The words of our songs and scriptures tell of a baby, born in humility, who walked as God among us, teaching, healing and loving. The story continues as shepherds, kings, and angels crowd around the child. The flickering candles remind us that faith and hope are fragile. We depend on God to remain strong, to know joy in the midst of life. We give thanks for a baby, a blessing given freely by God who loves all of this world.
This Christmas Eve, as you sit in church or at home, open your eyes to see the beauty of God’s Son shining from the faces of those around you. Open your mind to experience the wonder of God’s child in every person you meet on the street. This Christmas you’re asked to hold in your heart this precious baby, in whatever form he comes – a homeless man, a depressed woman, a laughing child, a determined teen – not just for one night, but for always. When we do, our world will truly find peace.
”So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.”
(Luke 2: 4-7 NIV)