The Nativity of the Lord - A Multitude of Angels

"And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the Highest; and Peace on earth to men of good will!"

God's greatest miracles often go unnoticed unless there are messengers and angels to announce them. God's gifts of peace, and justice and reconciliation are hidden in the ordinariness and ugliness of human history; there must be angels to point them out.

shepherdsbynightPerhaps that's one of the important lessons of Christmas, for all ages. This year, the Christmas moon and stars look down on a scene that looks very dark and, in many places, very ugly. There are colorful lights, the exchanging of gifts, holiday meals, the singing of carols - but there are also pandemic tragedies of sickness and death, cries of hunger, the separation of families, the loss of homes and employment, the exchange of violence, hatred and prejudice. There there seem to be very few signs of peace, good will and God's glory.

The miracle of Christ's coming in our flesh, of God's taking on our humanity and making it holy seems very hidden indeed. There must be voices that will shatter the darkness and dispel the despair. There must be messengers to reassure suffering people everywhere that God is with us, that peace is possible, that justice is attainable.

We who believe the miracle of Christmas must be the messengers - modern-day shepherds keeping watch by night. We must announce God's presence and the Saving Word of Jesus to the sick and lonely and suffering people around us. We do this by our words, our acts and our lives. It is our sense of wonder and awe of the miracle of Christmas. It is the song of our love and compassion for others day in the ordinary circumstances of everyday that announce: "Glory to God in the highest and peace to those on whom God's favor rests!" Then, and only then, will the rest of the world know how remarkable Christmas really is!

But just being "messengers" isn't enough.  Someone once said:  "If you want to keep Christ in Christmas: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger and unwanted, care for the ill and the elderly and love your enemies..."

The truth we celebrate at Christmas is that God's Spirit permeates throughout all human cultures. It moves men and women to greater depths of cooperation and care and generosity… it assures all of us of hope and healing in the face of the suffering and tragedy of this fragile planet. And it moves all of us to live our lives the best we can, in ways that ennoble and dignify our neighbors and ourselves.

Christmas is such a powerful, intimate reminder that, once we believe, we are never alone. Once we accept the miracle of God-made-man, then every facet of human life takes on a new dimension ...a Jesus-dimension. Everything is touched by His spirit of love, of peace, of hope.

The story of Jesus helps us to articulate an understanding of faith and of human understanding that sets us free from fear of the unknown, and affirms a relationship with God whose outpouring of Love is all-encompassing. In the quiet and promise of Christmas we rediscover the incredible power of this love. We realize once again that He continues to be present to us, that He is aware of our needs, concerned for our pain and our sorrow. He is as near as our very breath, within us, around us.

For a brief moment, we put aside all of the evil and the ugliness, the drums of war, the burden of poverty and injustice, the clouds of sadness and sickness - and we move into the silence of Bethlehem, to gaze upon the impossible-come-true. We see the Child-king, the prince of peace, the long-awaited Messiah, the Redeemer and Savior... the light and the hope of the world!

Christ, the Word become Flesh reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not something unattainable or out of reach… it is not something in the future for which we hope. The Word became Flesh to remind us that the Kingdom is here and now: among us, around us, within us…

Christmas challenges us to turn upside down and inside out where we look for the sacred: in the mess of the stable, in events that can go horribly wrong, in the lowliest of people, in people of different cultures, in the love of a man and a woman and their baby.

My prayers for you and your families throughout this special Christmas season and all throughout your journey of faith. Together we rejoice in our God, who shares in our humanity, who calls us to Himself, who brings us a different kind of Peace.

"When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart."

- Howard Thurman