December 24, Christmas Eve
“For the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken; for a child is born to us… the Prince of Peace.”—Isaiah 9:4
It’s the O holy night, the silent night, the all is calm all is bright evening of our dear savior’s birth.
In the realm of heavenly peace, jittery angels wait for God’s signal to depart.
In the midnight sky, the Star positions itself over the manger, dimming its light until the big reveal.
Around fires in the hills, shepherds swap bawdy stories, scratch at fleas, glad for quiet, no wolf or thief.
In the little town of Bethlehem, strangers who came to be counted lie four to a bed in bad motels, grateful for any bed at all. Innkeepers and beggars count the bonus coins of these last days, a temporary gladness. Crouching at corners, hard soldiers familiar with blood are tossing dice, muttering curses, ears cocked for trouble.
In Jerusalem, Herod sleeps in a velvet chamber, sheets of Egyptian cotton tucked under his chin, digesting a dinner of lamb and mint, dreaming of music and wine.
In a nasty shed, Mary labors, Joseph is silent, the cattle are lowing, and little Lord Jesus will soon be asleep on the hay.
Then the angels will sing and the shepherds will run and see and the Star will explode and people in town will wonder why there’s so much noise in that back alley, ‘though not enough to call the soldiers, who are still tossing the dice, muttering and cursing, waiting for much bigger trouble.
It will come.
Sleep on, all you Herods. It will come.
Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his holy name. (“O Holy Night”, v. 3)