"...The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
John 1:14

Dear Friends in Christ,

One of my favorite moments on Christmas Eve comes when the winter stars are arching overhead and candles are glowing below. All our joyful music and preparations condense down to a final hymn - "Silent Night." A sense of wonder and holiness at the birth Jesus rises with the words of that song.

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Christmas is a season of wonder as much as it is one of celebration. We delight with cooks and children everywhere at the giving of feasts and gifts. We enjoy the pleasure of time with friends and family. We also join with our church families and wonder at how our sanctuaries gather so many different sorts of people: Some have practiced following Christ for a long time; some are visiting us while away from home; and others have simply drifted in with an unnamed hunger of the heart.  

These, then, are the ones who may need food, who may be alone, or who may be ill; the ones to whom we are called to minister. There is wonder in the moments of service when we feed the hungry, speak to the lonely and visit the sick. We may be one of the actors in this story of service, but it is Christ who is the agent of restoration in the instant.

There is wonder that our God has come to us in so many ways: through the tapestry of human history; the family and feuds of the line of David; as well as our own personal stories. There is no frustration, alienation or despair that Jesus does not enter into and heal. This is the great mystery of our wonder. The One who created the heavens and the earth has come to pitch his tent among us - among our own tents. He dwells with us.

Silent night, Holy night, 
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face, 
With the dawn of redeeming grace, 
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. 
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

No wonder we delight to give ourselves over to praise, adoration and song in worship at Christmas. The Bread of Heaven has arrived among a starving people. The Friend of Sinners greets his lonely children. The Great Physician brings healing to the infirm.  And most importantly, the Prince of Peace has come to the midst of his battling children.

We give thanks for the wonder of the birth of Jesus. I encourage you to pause whatever you are doing and stand in gratitude at the mystery of this divine gift. Whether you are doing art with children; helping new refugees; or preparing our own meals; let your hearts be enlarged with praise for the God who loves you so practically and generously.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
The Hymnal 1982 #111

Perhaps, in these long evenings of winter, our evensong will become this, or another one of our Christmas hymns: The familiar words lifting our hearts in gratitude well past the twelve days of Christmas.

I wish you a blessed and merry Christmas!