We just experienced Christmas – the Mass of the Christ. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 11) “Unto you is born ….” Unto US. “Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given.” (Isaiah 9: 6) Unto US.
He came again this year as he came those many years ago in Bethlehem. It was a “Silent Night” when he arrived there. No balloons. No parades. No trumpets proclaiming the arrival of “the King of kings.” (I Timothy 6: 15) Instead, He came as a Baby born in a stable, out of the spotlight, out of the hustle bustle world nearby. Even His birth, though announced by angels, was only announced to a handful of shepherds sitting quietly on a hill “keeping watch over their flocks by night.” (Luke 2: 8) Likewise, He came to US in our silent, lonely places, in the dark, in the cold, alone on a hillside keeping watch over whatever it is that defines or dominates our lives. He came to us in ways both private and personal.
Years ago in December when I was serving my second church following seminary, all the congregations in our vicinity received fliers in the mail about an upcoming program at a small, rural Moravian church located nearby. The church sat at the top of a hill, surrounded by woods and fields with no houses in view. The flier advertised the annual Live Christmas Pageant sponsored by that church’s youth group. At the announced hour, they would gather at a manger scene. Young people dressed in the attire of long ago times would portray Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, and the Wise Men from the east. There would be live animals at that manger (sheep and goats and a cow). A recorded voice on a loudspeaker would read the Christmas Story from Luke chapter 2. And the church’s Youth Choir would sing.
I still remember the night of the performance. It was bitterly cold that evening. Mid-December temperatures had dropped into the teens, and a wind swept across the hill where those young folks and animals gathered for their annual performance. A handful of us climbed into my car and drove over to watch, prepared to get in a long line with other automobiles, windows down to hear the Story and the songs, braving the cold, and applauding the young people for their efforts. When we arrived, there was no long line of cars. The kids were there, as were the animals. But there was one automobile present – mine. Just one car filled with strangers who were not even members of that congregation. When the appointed hour arrived, the program began as if a hundred cars were sitting at that roadside. The electric star began to shed its neon light around the makeshift manger. Children in bathrobes with ropes around their waists took their places, some with handmade wings and others with gifts representing gold, frankincense and myrrh. A young girl portraying Mary (probably about the age of the original holy mother) and a teenaged boy playing Joseph took their places, gazing with smiles at the baby doll in the hay. The loudspeaker proclaimed the “good tidings of great joy.” The Youth Choir sang “Silent Night.” And it was all done for a handful of strangers in a single car, sitting in the cold and dark. I will never forget that experience, that sacred moment, when Truth was acted out before me. Jesus still comes like that – privately and personally, to one person at a time, wherever we are, in the cold, in the dark, in the loneliness of our own windswept hillsides. He comes to US with healing and hope. He comes, and we are no longer alone. He comes and reminds us that He will not depart but instead will remain beside us and for us.
Wherever you are, whatever your cold or dark night may be, whatever you’re facing, Christmas is our Faith’s great reminder that you do not face it alone. “For God so loved you that God sent His only begotten Son ….” (John 3: 16) And He doesn’t wait for crowds to gather. Individually, personally, the Son comes to US.