The Nativity of the Lord - Keeping Watch - Singing Praise

"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, justice and reconciliation would be hidden in the ordinariness and ugliness of human history unless there are angels to point them out.

shepherdsbynightThe 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 and modern-day angels singing God's glory. We must announce God's presence and the Saving Word of Jesus to the sick and lonely and suffering people around us. It is the song of love and compassion for others in the ordinary circumstances of everyday that announces "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 us all 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.

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!

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.