Sometimes I look with envy at those who keep Christmas as a full out time of feasting with family and friends in a way reminiscent of the ancient feast of Saturnalia which the positioning of the birth of Jesus by the early church in this time sought to overcome. Yet as the vigil begins each year with the first Christmas Eve service and stretches into the morning service of Christmas Day, I am by turns delighted and amazed at how the mystery of the birth of Jesus overtakes us all, leading us all to those indescribable places where earth and heaven meet.
As I have grown older I have also become more appreciative of how difficult and lonely this season can be for people without family, for people for whom the day and the season are proscribed by grief of some sort or another, for people who can't imagine that they are worthy of God's love or attention. Each Christmas season brings with it a renewed understanding of how important it is to be present to the needs that Christ came to serve, especially the need for acceptance of who we are, regardless of what we may have done, of the need for presence that offers dignity and grace to others when we are at our most vulnerable. That gift of presence is given anew to me as well as to you in this season.
It is a great joy to be given this incredible gift of time and service to be present to people who like me want to remember what it was like to be a child, to wonder how it is that God would do this stupendous thing-become one of us, for us, to listen again to that longing and yearning and to hear the hope-the freedom to believe because we want to do so, not because God seeks to control us. God does dream and believe, as Isaiah foretold, that the war boots and the bloodied clothing of our conflicts and desolation will become kindling for the fire of love and peace, justice and mercy, joy and wonder. O come all ye faithful, there is no need to stand afar off. God-is-with-us. Emmanuel is born this day for you!
God's peace and joy to you!