Summary: A short Christmas message
During the Christmas season, I confess how much I love to listen to Christmas carols. They calm the heart, and give hope to the soul. The churning mind is quenched, and peace, real peace, seems effortlessly within my reach. How sad it is that so many people find it a time of terrible despair and depression! Why is that?
I think that it is related to the unmet expectations that a secular celebration of a Christian holiday brings. The fevered pitch and pace of getting everything done, buying, spending, the latest crappy version of a sacred hymn, or talk of good will while little in the world echoes charity and love, and when Christmas finally arrives - it’s nothing. Just another day, and, it’s gone the next day. Worse, now we have giant organizations alleging themselves as Christian "churches" who won’t even have worship on the Day itself - and this year it is on a Sunday, to boot! It is just a holiday, not a holy day. It is abandoned at the first opportunity by everyone selling us Christmas. We want heaven, even just a taste, even for a few moments - instead we are left with the taste of plastic and dirt. What a let down!
We are alone, and it is the last thing we want to be at Christmas. We want to be included, we want to be welcomed, even when we are grumpy - especially when we are grumpy. We don’t want stuff - we want human forgiveness, and love. We want to be forgiven, and instead we’re afraid of "offending" them for no apparent reason. It’s an exhausting list.
But God knows loneliness, and did not make us for that. From the very first man, He said "It is not good that man be alone." Then He immediately made sure he wasn’t alone. In the darkest hour, when everyone else is apparently asleep, God knows that we are alone. And He is going to do something about it.
While I am writing this, "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" is playing on my stereo, a nice, soft guitar rendition. So peaceful. As quiet as midnight.
I have often wondered why we have this thought that Christ was born at midnight. We celebrate services at midnight, in anticipation of His imminent return. In western Christianity, Midnight Mass always refers to the Nativity celebration. In the east, Paschal vigil always takes place at midnight for the same reason.
Why Midnight? Whose idea was it that Christ was born in the middle of the night?
Midnight was called "the witching hour" because it is halfway between dusk and dawn, farthest from the light. Some would say that begins to get lighter and brighter from midnight on. This is hogwash, of course. Anyone who is up late, or in very northern climates knows well the saying "It’s always darkest before the dawn." There is no sense whatsoever that it starts getting lighter at midnight.
No, the reason for this belief is found, you guessed it, in the Bible. The Septuagint Old Testament contains a marvelous book called "The Wisdom of Solomon." And in the 18th chapter of Wisdom, we find this...
"For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, Thy All-powerful Word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of Thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth." (Wisdom 18:14-16)
It is the tenth plague which is about to befall Egypt. It is the night of the Passover. God has come to save. That’s what the name "Jesus" means. "God saves." The Almighty, All-powerful Word of God leaps from the heavenly throne! He stands on earth, but still touches heaven! All this begins when "night in its swift course was now half gone..."
Christians from the beginning have interpreted this as a foreshadowing of the Incarnation. God the Word, in the deepest, darkest hour of the humblest, most obscure place on earth, leaves the royal throne in heaven to come and touch the earth. God has come to our rescue. He comes to include us. He comes bearing forgiveness. Previously He came bringing death to God’s enemies. Now He comes to destroy death, the ultimate enemy. He comes to bring life...no, not just life - eternal life, peace on earth, goodwill to men. God comes to dwell among men. God becomes one of us. God becomes a helpless child. God is with us. He came once before, filling a land of doom with darkness and death. Now He comes, filling a land of doom with light and life.
And, according to this verse in the Old Testament, it came upon a midnight clear.