Summary: A Communion meditation that compares and contrasts the night of the Lord’s birth with the night of His betrayal and the night on which He shall return. Designed to be spoken in sections during the Communion service.
A night of miracles?! Yes, it was. A night of miracles, more than one. A miracle that the child of promise should finally be born, a miracle that a virgin should conceive and bear a son and we would call His name Immanuel, a miracle that from lowly shepherds to lofty wise men to angelic choirs His praise is sung. A night of miracles.
And yet more miracles, more wonders on that night. A miracle that a disgraced young woman should be embraced by a compassionate husband. In a day, much like ours – in a day in which honor and pride took precedent over everything else, what a wonder that Mary should have been trusted and loved by Joseph! The night of miracles is a wonder because in one small family compassion overruled pride.
A miracle, too, that ordinary people, busy people, like shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, should stop and pay attention. A wonder that they trusted their instincts and listened to their hearts, in a day, much like ours – in a day in which everyone is busy, busy with their own pursuits, everyone is rushing to get done what must be done, and there is no time or tolerance for interruptions. The night of miracles is a wonder because somebody was willing to slow down and look and listen for what God was doing.
And a miracle that the message of peace was announced in such definite terms. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.” In such positive, definite terms. How could it be, when Rome ruled with an iron fist? How could peace be possible, when the homeland was subjugated to a foreign power, and rebellion smoldered everywhere? How could the angels sing of peace, when angry young men vowed to carry their fight for power all the way to the bitter end, and when simple people were crushed with heavy taxes, put down with harsh insults, and treated with disdain by their own spiritual leaders? How can peace be found in such a setting as that?
“And on earth peace”. The most profound miracle of that night of miracles was the hope that pointed to something that was not yet, and claimed it. The greatest miracle of many that night was that faith had not been extinguished, after so many disappointments; that hope had not been snuffed out, after so many false leads; and that love, God’s love, God’s persistent love, was still held out, after so much history. And if Rome did not know it, if the political powers that be did not want it, if even God’s people could not quite see it, that night heralded the peace that was to be. Sure, certain, coming. Peace will come.
But when and how? By what means and in what way? It was not theirs to question, but to receive. It is not ours, either, to question, but to receive. "Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” Keep faith. Peace will come. Keep hope alive. Peace is on its way. Keep the love of God alive in your hearts and feel that peace.
A night of miracles. More than one. More than one night of miracles. A night in which the child of promise would be born, and a night in which He would be set up to die. A night in which a lovely child, in helpless innocence, would be adored by all, and a night in which a young man, in selfless innocence, would be abandoned by nearly all. A night of miracles, a night of wonder. And another night.
“And on earth peace.” What has happened to peace when men armed with swords and staves trample a garden in search of an unarmed teacher? What has become of peace when a disillusioned follower fills his greedy purse with silver and sells his friend down the river? Where is peace when nails pierce clean hands and hammers bang on feet so recently anointed? Where is peace when a blustery disciple turns tail and denies, where is peace when two sons of thunder clamor for positions of power, where is peace when priests plot and governors grovel? Where is peace when the best who ever lived is snatched from Gethsemane’s prayer to Pilate’s porch and thence to Calvary’s mountain? Where is peace?
The same as it has always been – a purpose in the heart of God. An intention that will be fulfilled. A plan for humanity, a mystery, a wonder, a miracle. For on this other night, this second night of miracles, peace was wrought. Peace has come. Peace made by the blood of the cross. Peace fashioned by the sacrifice of His life, this innocent one. Peace made by His reconciling, atoning death.