And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
We’ve been waiting. We’ve been longing. And now, the culmination of Advent. He is here.
Today, I’m struck by the timing of his arrival. Not the age in history or season of the year. But the time of day, the hour at which it occurs. This arrival takes place at night. These are the only two words of timing that we are given: “at night.” In the thick of night is where the Light finds us.
One of the most persistent symbols of Christmas is the candle. Sure, we hang strings of bulbs on Christmas trees. We display our Moravian stars. And some of us turn our homes into flashing and blinking monstrosities visible from space. But through all of this, the candle shines brightest as the symbol of our journey of hope, joy, peace, and love.
All around the world tonight, Christians are gathering in cathedrals and stadiums and homes and caves and palaces and war-torn battlefields and a little movie theater. And in all of these places and more, Christians are singing songs and reading this story by simple candle light.
A reminder that the Light has come. And he chooses to show up in the middle of darkness, in the unexpectedly small and simple ways. A stubborn flicker of resistance, a defiant spark of hope. Passed from one person to the next, this Light advances and the darkness is forced into retreat, with no place left to hide.
And no matter how much the darkness howls and threatens and fights to snuff it out, the darkness has not, and will not, overcome it. The people living in darkness have seen a great Light. On those living in the valley of the shadows, the Light has dawned. After the long night of waiting, the Morning himself has arrived at last. And Eve’s weeping gives way to Mary’s song. We raise our candles and voices together and sing along. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.”
Light of the world, we have been waiting for the morning. We are waking up to find it more than we could have dreamed.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.
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