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It was a holy night, the songwriter tells us, that night in Bethlehem. There was “a thrill of hope,” and the weary world rejoiced because a new and glorious morn had broken. It was, indeed, a night divine . . . a holy night when all anyone could do in response was fall to their knees and listen to the music of angels.


Now the holy night is displaced by the reality of the daylight when everything looks boringly normal, like nothing unusual had ever happened. The glory of it all seems lost, just as the words of Edwin Muir describe fleeting miracles: “. . .the world rolled back into its place, and we are here. And all that radiance lies forlorn, as if it had never stirred.”


Modern-day Christmas observances are very much like that first Christmas in some ways. On December 26th the normalcy is palpable, perhaps even depressing. The house is often trashed . . . wrapping paper and ribbon strewn about, gifts that don’t fit piled in a corner, refrigerator full of left-overs. The glorious Advent and Christmas eve worship experiences are over. The Christmas carols have faded into the nostalgic Auld Lang Syne. Family has gone home, and all the Christmas decorations you decked your halls with are begging to be torn down and put up in the attic until next year. I don’t know about you, but I am contemplating the reality of going back to work and resuming a rigid schedule that does not include holiday parties or holiday snacks brought to the office, or getting off a few hours early on Christmas eve. “The world rolls back into its place,” as Edwin Muir says, “and all that radiance lies forlorn, as if it had never stirred.”


So what’s left of all that was the glory of Christmas? What was left in and around that rude stable-place when the miraculous birth was over and the singing of angels had silenced? Just the star. The light of the star remained . . . a subtle, silent reminder that something wondrous had occurred. A silent, but very brilliant, sign that what had happened in that stable was bigger and higher than it seemed. A silent, glimmering reminder that all could see that this birth would have eternal significance for all the world.

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